Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Winter Doldrums

What does the US soccer fan do for the next few months until important matches start up again? Well, there’s the EPL and other European leagues to follow. The FIFA World Club Championship gets going soon. The NCAA tournament’s second round will be played today, though honestly with its bizzaro substitution rules, the college game leaves me a bit clammy. The World Cup draw is on December 9th, which will offer a shot in the arm. While I’m not down on all the rules regarding pots, seeds, etc., a dream draw for the US could be: Czech Rep., Ukraine, Togo, U.S. Like-wise, a horror draw might look like: Argentina, Italy, Switzerland, U.S. Let’s hope for the former.

Congrats
While the final wasn’t a thing of beauty, congrats to the LA Galaxy and their fans for winning the MLS Cup & the double. Check out the MLS Pictures production on FSC to see how the Gals battered Twellman, Noonan & Co. into submission. I hope that Adidas steps up & produces more of MLS Pictures in ’06. Here’s to the Soca Warriors as well for qualifying for their first-ever World Cup finals. It’s a little strange, though, that CONCACAF will be sending the same amount of teams as South America and Asia. Trinidad will benefit not only significantly from the influx of cash for reaching Germany, but the global exposure for the island nation will certainly increase tourism revenues there over the next few years.

2005: A Look Back
What a fantastic year for soccer in the US. Here’s a calendar-style look at some big matches in 2005. There are many more than didn’t make the list, but I hope these bring back great memories.

Jan 12-16: The US U-20s sweep through qualifying for the World Youth Championship with a 10-1 aggregate in three matches.

Feb 9: Eddies Johnson & Lewis kick-off the Hex with a 2-1 road win vs. Trinidad.

Mar 9: Clint Mathis scores his probable last goal for the US in a 3-0 spanking of Colombia in Fullerton. Across the continent, DC beats Harbour View in the CCC, 2-1 in Germantown, MD. KC ties Saprissa 0-0 at Arrowhead.

Mar 16: DC wins their road CCC tie with Harbour View, 2-1.

Mar 17: KC gives up a goal in injury time, then falls in OT at Saprissa to lose their CCC tie.

Mar 27: The US is flat in a 2-1 loss to Mexico at the Azteca. Lewis gets the US goal.

Mar 30: The Yanks rebound by beating Guatemala, 2-0 in Birmingham, AL on goals by Eddie Johnson & Ralston.

Apr 2: The MLS season kicks off: the Metros and RSL chase a ball around Giants stadium in a monsoon. The match ends 0-0.

Apr 6: DC draws Mexico’s UNAM Pumas 1-1 at RFK in the CCC Semis.

Apr 12 -16: The US U-17s go 2-0-1 in CONCACAF qualifying to reach the final tournament.

Apr 13: Pumas decimate DC, 5-0 in Mexico City to end the defending MLS Champs’ CCC dreams.

May 28: Clint Dempsey gets only US goal in a 2-1 loss to England at Soldier Field.

May 31: Michael Owen scores a hat trick, upstaging David Beckham in England’s 3-2 win over Colombia at Giants Stadium. In the nightcap, Amado Guevara curls in the game winner in extra time to give the Metros a 2-1 win over Chicago.

Jun 4: Salt Lake celebrates its first USMNT match as the Nats beat down Costa Rica 3-0. Donovan (2) and McBride are the goal scorers.

Jun 8: What a difference a year makes in Panama City. The Yanks win at Panama 3-0 behind goals from Bocanegra, Donovan, and McBride.

Jun 11-21: the US U-20s make some noise at the World Youth Championship in Holland by beating eventual champion Argentina 1-0, drawing Germany 0-0, and beating Egypt 1-0 to win its group. In the round of 16 vs. Italy, the Gnats take a 1-0 halftime lead, then get drubbed in the second half and crash out, 3-1.

Jul 7-24: The Gold Cup. The US barnstorms the country with a second-string squad, beating Cuba 4-1 and Canada 2-0 in Seattle, drawing Costa Rica 0-0 and beating Jamaica 3-1 in Foxboro. In the semis at Giants Stadium, the US goes down a goal to Honduras, then gets goals from John O’Brien and Oguchi Oneywu in the last five minutes to win 2-1. After 120 of scoreless soccer vs. Panama in the final, Brad Davis scores the decisive penalty kick to give the US its 3rd Gold Cup Championship.

Jul 18: Real Madrid beats LA 2-0 at Carson.

Jul 27: AC Milan beats Chicago 3-1 at Soldier Field.

Jul 28: DC United’s Bobby Boswell scores early against Chelsea at FedEx Field, but the EPL champs come back to win, 2-1.

Jul 30: The MLS All-stars beat Fulham 4-1 in Columbus.

Aug 3: The Metros crash out of the US Open Cup, 3-1 at Rochester.

Aug 6: Pizza Hut Park opens in Frisco, TX. Youri Djorkaeff and Carlos Ruiz each score twice in a 2-2 draw.

Aug 17: The US gets a first-minute goal by Brian McBride, but can’t score again in a dominating but frustrating 1-0 win vs. Trinidad in E. Hartford, CT.

Aug 23: The MLS “Select XI” is defeated by Real Madrid 5-0 at the Bernabeu.

Aug 29: Tab Ramos, Marcela Balboa, and John Harkes are inducted into the US Soccer Hall of Fame in Oneonta, NY.

Sep 3: Steve Ralston and DaMarcus Beasley score to give the US a 2-0 win over Mexico in Columbus. The win qualifies the US for their fifth straight World Cup.

Sep 7: In a meaningless game for the US, the Yanks draw at Guatemala City, 0-0

Sep 13: Jamil Walker scores in the 81st minute to give DC a 1-1 draw in their Copa Sudamericana opener vs. Chile’s U. Catolica at RFK.

Sep 17-26: At the U-17 World Championships in Peru, the US beats N. Korea 3-2, Italy 3-1, and draws Cote d’Iviore to win its group. The Mini-nats fall in the quarterfinals 2-0 to Holland.

Sep 22: DC United takes a 2-0 lead at U. Catolica, then give up three successive goals, the last in the 86th minute, to lose 4-3 on aggregate to the Chileans. U. Catolica is currently preparing to face Boca Juniors in the Copa Sudamericana’s semifinals.

Sep 28: Herculez Gomez scores the only goal of the game, giving LA the US Open Cup over FC Dallas.

Oct 3: The US B-team is beat 3-0 at Costa Rica.

Oct 12: The US finishes World Cup qualifying atop the Hexagonal for the first time after beating Panama 2-0 at Foxboro.

Oct 16: The MetroStars win at Chivas USA in the final match of the MLS regular season to qualify for the playoffs.

Oct 21: DC ties Chicago 0-0 at Soldier Field to open the MLS playoffs.

Oct 22: MetroStars beat New England 1-0 at Giants Stadium, Colorado and FC Dallas play to a scoreless draw.

Oct 23: LA beats San Jose 3-1 to take a commanding lead in their playoff series.

Oct 29: Host New England goes down 2-0 aggregate to the Metros, then scores three unanswered goals to advance to the Eastern Conf. Finals. Colorado beats FC Dallas in penalty kicks, and LA’s 1-1 draw at San Jose lifts the Galaxy to the next round.

Oct 30: Chicago obliterates DC 4-0 at RFK to end United’s repeat hopes.

Nov 5: Donovan’s two goals send LA to the MLS Cup.

Nov 6: Dempsey punches New England’s ticket to Frisco with an early goal.

Nov 12: Josh Wolff scored in the US’ 1-1 draw vs. Scotland at Glasgow.

Nov 13: Pando Ramirez delivers LA its second MLS Cup.

Quite a year, huh? Well, 2006 should be even better with LA and NE in the CCC, Hopefully more Copa Sudamericana, a possible MLS-MFL showdown, Bridgeview’s opening, and a quaint little tourney in Germany. Lots to look forward to.

The Kin of Fish will slow down a bit during the off-season, but please come back to visit every once in a while for updates. I’ve got an RSS feed as well, so you’ll know when new updates are posted. Check it out.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Big Weekend

There’s a lot going on in the soccer world the weekend besides the two matches most American fans care about. Ten national squads, including CONCACAF’s Trindad & Tobago, will be facing off in the first legs of their World Cup Qualifying playoffs. The Soca Warriors will be facing Bahrain at home on Saturday, in an attempt to reach their first-ever World Cup Finals. A Trinidad berth would also mark the first time that the US’ home region would have four representatives in the final tournament. Best of luck to them. There are some compelling friendly match-ups outside of the Quallies, though. European powers France and Germany face off in Paris, and England and Argentina continue their storied rivalry in Geneva. Holland takes on Italy in Amsterdam, S. Korea plays Sweden in Seoul, and Mexico takes on Chile in Monterrey.

It’s Crap!
For US fans, however, Saturday offers a chance to see some up-and-coming stars when the Nats visit Glasgow for a match against Scotland (11am ET, FSC). Despite the Yanks’ lofty FIFA ranking, don’t look for the Americans, who have a gaping hole in midfield, to dominate the Scots, who finished third in their WC qualifying group behind Italy and Norway. With injuries to first-team players McBride, Reyna, Donovan, and O’Brien, look for the US to lineup like this:

Keller – Spector, Oneywu, Bocanegra, Berhalter – Beasley, Zavagnin, Olsen, Gaven – Ching, Wolff

I don’t know enough about the Tartans to guess what they’ll bring, but without the regular starters mentioned above, and with Bruce’s record on European soil, it’s hard to be optimistic about a US victory.

The Grand Final
MLS says it’s sold all the seats at Pizza Hut Park for Sunday’s MLS Cup match (3:30pm ET, ABC), but I can’t imagine all attendees will be in their seats at game time, which should mean an ugly picture for the folks watching at home at ABC. The product on the field, however, should be far from ugly. Both the Revs and Galaxy put on good shows, and Sunday should be no different. In my mind, the Gals will have no answer for the Revs’ Shalrie Joseph, who some think was as deserving of the league MVP award than recipient and teammate Taylor Twellman. Joseph and the always-reliable Steve Ralston will run the attack-mided show for the Revs, constantly feeding Twellman, Pat Noonan, and Clint Dempsey good chances. The unsung Revs defense will handle Landon Donovan and Herculez Gomez, and the Revs win their first MLS title, 3-1. Hopefully we won’t see Revs owner Robert Kraft trying to moonwalk with the Silver Rothie after the match.

Don’t forget Don Garberleone’s 2:30 ET chat today on MLSNet. Not sure when to expect the Toronto announcement, but it should come Sunday's match. Enjoy, and here’s the total weekend TV picture (times ET).

Saturday, Nov. 12
11:00am: INTL: Scotland – USA, FSC
3:00pm: WCQ: Uruguay – Australia, GOL
2:00pm: INTL: UAE – Brazil, TELE
4:00pm: INTL: France – Germany, TELE
5:00pm: WCQ: Spain – Slovakia, GOL
5:30pm: WCQ: Trinidad – Bahrain, FSC
7:00pm: GUA: Comunicaciones – Municipal, GOL
9:00pm: COL: America – Junior, GOL

Sunday, Nov. 13
12noon: NCAA: MAAC Final, ESPNU
12noon: NCAA: Big Ten Final, CSTV
1:00pm: BRA, Ponte Preta – Flamengo, GOL
1:00pm: EXH: Mexico XI – Mexico U-17 XI, TELE
2:00pm: ARG: Boca Juniors – Colon, FSC
2:00pm: NCAA: Conference USA Final, CSTV
3:30pm: MLS CUP 2005: New England – Los Angeles, ABC
3:30pm: EXH: Mexico ’94 – Mexico ’98, TELE
3:30pm: PER: Cienciano – Universitario, GOL
5:30pm: COL: Once Caldas – Deportivo Cali, GOL
7:30pm: ELS: LA Firpo – San Salvador, GOL

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

2002 Redux

The MLS Conference Finals went almost as The Kin of Fish predicted them (see previous post), as New England will face Los Angeles at the Deep Dish this Sunday for the Silver Rothie. For all the talk about the MLS dynasty that is DC United, the Gals have shown amazing consistency in the league’s first decade, reaching the final match in 1996, 1999, 2001, 2002 (winner), and now in 2005. This LA team looks a lot different from the one that beat New England at Foxboro in ’02, however. That team was led by MLS MVP and Golden Boot winner Carlos Ruiz, who scored 24 of LA’s 44 goals that season, and of course, the golden goal that delivered the Galaxy their only MLS Cup title. This year’s LA team also scored 44 goals, but the role of Ruiz (now in Dallas, or somewhere else) was played by the two-headed monster of Landon Donovan (12g) and Herculez Gomez (11g). LA benefited from a 5-2-1 late-season spurt (including the US Open Cup title), which generated the momentum to beat Supporters’ Shield winner San Jose and Colorado and reach the MLS final.

The Revs’ 2002 squad won the Eastern Conference in the regular season, albeit with a losing (12-14-2) record. The Revs that year (as this year) were led top point-getter Taylor Twellman, but the addition of national-teamers-in training Clint Dempsey (10g), Pat Noonan (8g), and Grenidadian Shalrie Joseph (6g) since 2002 gives the Revs more offensive weapons than LA. I’ll hold my prediction until later in the week, but I am in the Northeast…

Solo Toronto?
Jack Bell reports that the Canadian Club may be the only new entry to MLS in 2007, giving the league an unlucky (or lucky, if you think that way) 13 clubs for the season after next. Apparently none of the other expansion candidates (Milwaukee, Philly, Houston, Cleveland, St. Louis) will be ready to go in the next 18 months. Says Ivan Gazidis in the piece, “We want to get the right stadium, owner and market and will continue to be conservative.” Considering the lack of chatter over the future of Kansas City and San Jose, it appears that MLS’ little growth spurt may be slowing down. Personally, I don’t think it’s a big deal going with an odd number of teams. Other nuggets from Bell’s weekly article:

  • MLS will once again play a light schedule during next summer’s World Cup
  • MLS re-examines the much-derided playoff format each and every year
  • Bora Milutinovic’s name is in consideration for the Metros’ coaching spot (blech!)

Power Players
The excellent Steve Davis of the Dallas Morning News names the ten most powerful people in US Soccer:
10: John Skipper, SVP/GM, ESPN
9: Ivan Gazidis
8: Richard Motzkin, Agent
7: Lamar Hunt
6: Landon Donovan
5: Dan Flynn, US Soccer Secretary General
4: Sunil Gulati
3: Phil Anschutz
2: Don Garber
1: Bruce Arena

Friday, November 04, 2005

Final Four

Look for New England, buoyed by their terrific second half vs. the MetroStars, to pounce on Chicago early in their Eastern Conference Final match on Sunday. Though the Revs will be without Marshall Leonard and Khano Smith, Chicago will miss Chris Armas’ veteran leadership more. I see a 2-1 New England win, with Twellman and Noonan finding the net for the homestanding Revs, while Chris Rolfe will score for the Fire, earning him a serious look at Bruce Arena's first 2006 training camp.

Out West, look for Landon Donovan to lead LA back to the MLS Cup with a 1-0 OT win at Invesco over the Rapids. Colorado has big holes to fill with Alan Nkong’s suspension and Nat Borchers’ ankle sprain, and Jovan Kirovski is hardly the cure for the Rapids. Despite LA’s inability to win on the road this season, the Gals will have tons of confidence after their takedown of the Quakes in the first round. Joe Cannon will deny Herculez Gomez early and often, but Donovan will score in extra time to send LA to their first league championship match since 2002.

50/50
Love to fans of the Quakes who have really showed something this season despite uncertainty of the club’s future. Now AEG is saying there’s only a 50/50 shot of the club staying in the Bay Area next year. If the team does pick up sticks, it’ll be a crying shame that the fans weren’t able to give a proper goodbye to the two-time league champs and this season’s Supporters’ Shield Winner. It’s not a charity, here, folks, put perhaps it’s time for some of the big money floating around in Silicon Valley to step up and keep on of the league’s most successful franchises put. Big discussion going on at BigSoccer about it.

Soccer on the Tube
Here’s what’s on this weekend. All times ET. Enjoy.

Saturday, Nov. 5
7:30am: EPL: Aston Villa-Liverpool, FSC
10:00am: GER: Schalke-Duisberg, FSC
12noon: EPL: Portsmouth-Wigan, FSC
12noon: ESP: Real Sociedad, Osasuna, GOL
2:00pm: URU: Penarol-Danubio, GOL
2:30pm: ITA: Lazio-Inter, FSC
4:00pm: ESP: Villareal-Valencia, GOL
4:00pm: MEX: Toluca-Dorados, GALA
5:00pm: EPL: Newcastle-Birmingham, FSC
6:00pm: MEX: Monterrey-Veracruz, GALA
7:30pm: PER: Sporting Cristal-Universitario, GOL
9:00pm: MLS: Western final, Colorado-LA Galaxy, FSC, HDNet
9:30pm: ITA: Empoli-Reggina, GOL
10:00pm: MEX: Atlas-Chivas, TELE

Sunday, Nov. 6
9:00am: ITA: Cagliari-Treviso, FSC
9:00am: ITA: AC Milan-Udinese, GOL
11:00am: ESP: Sevilla-Atletico Madrid, GOL
1:00pm: EPL: Everton-Middlesbrough, FSC
1:00pm: ESP: Real Madrid-Real Zaragoza, GOL
1:00pm: MEX: Pumas-Atlante, UNI
3:00pm: MLS: Eastern final, New England-Chicago, ESPN2
3:00pm: ECU: Olmedo-Aucas, GOL
3:00pm: FRA: Paris St. Germain-Monaco, FSC
3:00pm: MEX: San Luis-Monterrey, GALA
5:00pm: COL: Nacional-Junior, GOL
5:00pm: ENG: FA Cup: Chasetown-Oldham, FSC
6:00pm: MEX: Club America-Cruz Azul, TELE
7:00pm: ELS: LA Firpo-FAS, GOL
9 :30pm: BRA:Corinthians-Santos, GOL
11:00pm: ARG: Newell’s Old Boys-Rosario Central, FSC

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Das Rights, Baby!

By now I’m sure you’ve seen the news that the Mouse House networks have won the English-language US television rights for the eight-year World Cup cycle between the 2007 Women’s championship and the 2014 Men’s World Cup. Glad to see that the “mini World Cup” Confederation Cups are included. Hope that means that the Disney nets will actually televise those matches instead of driving soccer fans to hunt them down to watch in spanish on Telefutura. As for MLS rights past '06, the announcement gave quite a clue:

"Garber said MLS anticipates securing rights fees."
Now that’s news. Keep in mind that ESPN recently offered to go halfsies with the NHL on their latest deal, after men playing poker attracted more viewers than hockey during the NHL lockout. Since MLS rights remain visible only under a microscope, I wonder what Garber thinks he can get, half-off entrée coupons at the ESPN Zone in Anaheim? Perhaps the new expansion club will have impact coercing a rights fee from TV networks. A team in a major market like Houston will go a long way in terms of expanding MLS’ national footprint, and potential ratings, especially since the Toronto club won’t add any US-based television homes. We'll know more about that next weekend at MLS Cup, when the league is supposed to formally announce Toronto & (active) club #14. Stay tuned, indeed.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Blank Stares

One franchise had won nearly half of its league’s titles. Another was hoping for some late-season mojo to take it’s first-ever crown. Both DC United and the MetroStars had reasons to feel good heading into the second legs of their first-round playoff series last weekend. DC was returning to RFK stadium after a scoreless draw with the Chicago Fire. Metro had a one-goal lead heading to Gillette Stadium to take on New England. Metro took a lead early in the second half on yet another key goal by Youri Djorkaeff, upping its aggregate lead to two-nil. Signs were pointing to an epic Eastern Conference final. Then… the clearly talented Revs took command, scoring three times in the series’ last twenty-two minutes to dash the Metros’ hopes. In fashion typical of Rev-Metro clashes this year, a late goal decided the outcome. Rev Khano Smith’s 83rd-minute shot eluded Metro keeper Tony Meola, sending New England to the conference finals this Sunday versus… not DC United, but the Chicago Fire. DC had looked dangerous down the stretch, and the Freddy Flap notwithstanding, looked to be better than Chicago. However, the Fire surprised themselves, DC, and 20,000+ ravenous United fans at RFK by scoring three incredible first-half goals en route to a 4-0 rout of the defending champs. To add insult, key United midfielder Christian Gomez was red-carded in the second half after spitting on a Fire opponent.

The Western Conference semifinals were no more predictable, as 3rd seeded Colorado earned home-field advantage for the Western final by besting host FC Dallas 5-4 in penalty kicks at the conclusion of 120 minutes of tied-up soccer. Supporters’ Shield winner San Jose, who had lost only four matches all season, couldn’t solve chief rival LA in a 4-2 aggregate loss.

There were plenty of blank stares to go around this weekend as three favored clubs fell in the playoffs’ first round. However, these playoffs demonstrate why sports are so popular; they're the ultimate reality series: no one has any idea how they’ll turn out. Of course, other leagues offer more in the way of home-field advantage than MLS, so upsets like CHI-DC, COL-FCD, and LA-SJ are more likely. However, I prefer the current setup to the "best-of-three" or "first-to-five" playoff formats of the past. The current setup gives fans of all playoff teams the hope that their club can lift the Silver Rothie, and that’s a great thing.

Thanks to the Metros
Here’s a personal thank-you to the MetroStars organization for making the last third of the MLS season a great rollercoaster ride. Whether you like or hate Bob Bradley, it’s obvious that Alexi Lalas did the MetroNation a service by jettisoning the former coach when things got dicey down the stretch. Promoted coach Mo Johnston did a fantastic job motivating the team to a 3-1-1 record in the regular season and playoffs, and while the club came up short in frustrating manner, anything after the 1-0 win over the Revs at home was gravy. Hopefully the red-haired suit will do the right thing and give MoJo the keys for the 2006 season & beyond.

TV! TV!
US Soccer has done well by getting the November 12th match at Scotland televised on Fox Soccer Channel at 11am ET. Hopefully they’ll do US fans one better by picking up some European feed & saving us from Mr. Bretos & company's blathering on and on about nothing in particular. Il Bruce will select his roster after this weekend’s matches.

Ch-ch-check it Out
Adam Spangler has a great interview with Landon Donovan on his This is American Soccer Blog. Nice job!

Friday, October 28, 2005

Enjoy Yourself

Some of you may be too young to remember the period between 1984 and 1996 when (real, outdoor) soccer in this country was an afterthought. Not an “afterthought” in the way it is today, with spotty mentions in the nation’s top newspapers and rare highlights on SportsCenter, but a real afterthought, with no mentions, anywhere, about the sport outside of the World Cup. In the last ten years, the growth of both the internet and 500-channel television universe has helped cultivate a growing and fervent audience of fans of the US game (you, presumably).

Another major factor of that growth of course, is the league. Without MLS, we’d all be following the USL and its microscopic crowds around the US’ second (and third) cities and trying to follow our American heroes on the web & digital channels to judge our chances for the next World Cup. Over the course of the week, there has been a huge amount of negative press about MLS, its playoff system, its television broadcasts, its expansion plans, its stadium designs, its crowd passion, its uniform colors, paint on its fields, its boring matches, and so on and so forth.

To those columnists, posters, and bloggers out there, I say, “take a step back.” Is the league in the place we all want it to be? No. However, imagine what soccer in this country would be without MLS. Would you put the same energy into following teams overseas? Would you follow the Mexican league (shudder?). Would you support your local USL-1, -2, or PDL team with the same passion? Seriously, how would your “sporting” life change? For me, there’d definitely be something missing without MLS and my 2005 MLS Cup Champion MetroStars. I’d miss the friends I’ve made, pubs I’ve visited and the trips I’ve taken around MLS over the past ten years.

Warts and all, MLS has become a big part of my life, and I’m tired of the league getting ripped all time by folks that think they know better. Here’s some advice ahead of this weekend’s playoff matches: just enjoy them. Enjoy them despite the MLS haters out there. Enjoy them, even if your club loses over the weekend. Enjoy them even if the crowd looks sparse on TV. Just have a good time. ‘Cause that what it’s about, right?

Here’s what’s on the most popular networks, with the times ET.

Saturday, Oct. 29
8:00am: EPL: Tottenham-Arsenal, FSC
10:00am: GER: Moenchengladbach-Dortmund, FSC
12noon: EPL: Middlesbrough-Man. United, FSC
12noon: ITA: Sampdora-Inter, GOL
2:30pm: ITA: AC Milan-Juventus, GOL
3:00pm: EPL: Chelsea-Blackburn, FSC
4:30pm: ESP: Real Betis-Real Madrid, GOL
6:00pm: MEX: Atlante- Jaguares, GALA
6:30pm: PER: Bolognesi – Alianza Liam, GOL
8:00pm: MLS: Conf Semis, 2nd leg, New England-MetroStars, FSC, DK
8:00pm: MEX: Chivas – Morelia, TELE
8:30pm: MLS: Conf Semis, 2nd leg, FC Dallas-Colorado, DK
8:30pm: COL: America Cali – Independiente Santa Fe, GOL
10:00pm: MLS: Conf Semis, 2nd leg, San Jose-Los Angeles, FSC, DK, HD Net
10:00pm: MEX: Necaxa-Pachuca, GALA
12mid: MEX: Tigres – Toluca, GALA

Sunday, Oct. 30
9:00am: ITA: Lecce-Messina, FSC
9:00am: ITA: Fiorentina-Cagliari, GOL
11:00am: ESP: Valenica – Racing Santander, GOL
1:00pm: URU: Rentistas-Penarol, GOL
1:00pm: MEX: Pumas-America, UNI
1:30pm: EPL: Charlton-Bolton, FSC
3:00pm: FRA: Auxerre-Paris St. Germain, FSC
3:00pm: ESP: Atletico Madrid-Villreal, GOL
3:00pm: MEX: San Luis – Monterrey, GALA
4:30pm: MLS: Conf Semis, 2nd leg, DC United – Chicago, ESPN2
5:00pm: ITA: Treviso-Siena, FSC
5:30pm: COL: Independiente Medellin – Atletico Nacional, GOL
7:30pm: ELS: LA Firpo – Isidro Metapan, GOL
9:30pm: BRA: Corinthians- Vasco de Gama, GOL
11:00pm: ARG: Rosario Central – River Plate, FSC

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Yay! Matchtracker!

So US Soccer decides to hastily arrange a friendly with the Scots. I’m all for that. As of today, however, the match will take place the day before the MLS Cup, deflecting attention and possibly key players away from the MLS final, and will only be available on Matchtracker! Way to go!

The last time the two teams met was on May 30th, 1998 at RFK stadium as the sendoff match before the World Cup in France that year. It was played as a doubleheader with the women’s team, which demolished New Zealand in the opener. I was there, along with two pals in a big Sam’s Army section, and the only thing I can remember about the MNT’s scoreless draw with the Scots was the oppressive pre-summer heat. Tough to stand for four hours behind the goal on the day, that’s for sure.

Il Bruce
The Bruce was at the Swamp on Saturday, presumably a lot warmer and drier than me and the ESC as the Metro Boys continued their unbeaten streak under coach MoJo (Yeah, baby!). Arena told the Star’s Ledger’s Frank Giase how tough MLS coaches have it, especially in comparison to front-office types. He’s got a point there. Brucie also inferred that he won’t be around after next summer in Germany. He seemed downright ornery in Jack Bell’s column regarding getting a seed in Deutschland, MLS parity, and Bob Bradley’s future. Geez, pal, lighten up a bit!

Gack!
Last season, Columbus sped into the MLS Cup playoffs as the top seed in the East and on an 18-match unbeaten streak, only to be quickly dispatched in the first round by New England. History could repeat itself this Saturday in Foxboro, with the Revs on the short end if the young Metro defense can play like it did in NJ. Huge ups to Jason Hernandez and Seth Stammler for their efforts in containing the high-powered Rev offense, which was 2nd best in the MLS regular season. Although MoJo’s job is on the line, the Metro is playing with house money, and hopefully will get a result in the half-melon that is Gillette. I feel sorry for Rev fans that have to stare at a blue tarp the whole game. They deserve better, though most MLS fans were staring at empty seats in all four matches this weekend.

DC has to feel good about their chances at home vs. Chicago on Sunday. I see a 2-0 victory. Boy, did the Quakes take it on the chin vs. LA. San Jose has history on its side, though, and look for Dwayne De to be the deciding factor at Spartan. Quakes, 3-2 on aggregate after extra time. I have no feeling whatsoever about the Dallas-Colorado matchup. In my eyes, neither of these teams have much to offer, though if FC Cows make it to the final, I guess they’ll guarantee only 3,000 empty seats at the Deep Dish for MLS Cup. I keed! I keed!

RIP, Wellington Mara.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Kill Your Television

No, wait! Don't do that! Not with the MLS Cup Playoffs & so much other soccer to see on the tube this weekend. Enjoy, people... all times ET:

Friday, Oct. 21st
9:00pm: MLS: Quarterfinal, 1st leg Chicago-DC United: HDNet, DK

Saturday, Oct. 22nd
7:30am: EPL: Blackburn-Birmingham, FSC
10:00am: GER: Hertha Berlin-Mainz, FSC
12noon: EPL: Portsmouth-Charlton, FSC
12noon: ITA: Messina-Ascoli, RAI
2:00pm: URU: Nacional-River Plate, GOL
2:30pm: ITA: Fiorentina-Parma, RAI
3:00pm: EPL: Arsenal- Manchester City, FSC
4:00pm: MEX: Toluca-Atlante, GALA
4:00pm: ESP: Barcelona – Osasuna, GOL
6:00pm: MEX: Monterrey-Necaxa, GALA
6:30pm: BRA: Sao Paulo-Santo, GOL
7:00pm: MLS: Quarterfinal, 1st leg MetroStars-New England, DK, FSC
8:30pm: COL: Ind. Santa Fe- Junior, GOL
9:00pm: MLS: Quarterfinal, 1st leg Colorado-FC Dallas, DK, FSC
10:00pm: MEX: Atlas-Dorados, TELE
10:30pm: PER: Sporting Cristal – San Martin, GOL

Sunday, Oct. 23
8:00am: ITA: AC Milan-Palermo, RAI
9:00am: ITA: Lecce-Juventus, FSC
11:00am: ESP: Villareal-Mallorca, GOL
1:00pm: USA: WNT- Mexico, ESPN2
1:00pm: EPL: Newcastle-Sunderland, FSC
1:00pm: ESP: Racing-Atletico Madrid, GOL
2:30pm: ITA: Roma-Lazio, RAI
3:00pm: MLS: Quarterfinals, 1st leg LA Galaxy-San Jose, ESPN2
3:00pm: FRA: Auxerre-Paris SG, FSC
5:00pm: ITA: Treviso-Empoli, FSC
5:00pm: BOL: The Strongest-Bolivar, GOL
6:00pm: MEX: America-Veracruz, TELE
7:00pm: COL: Nacional-Pereira, GOL
9:30pm: ITA: Udinese-Inter Milan, GOL

Monday, October 17, 2005

Just Enough

How many times did Tony Meola stand on his head? How loud was Mo Johnston screaming in the locker room at halftime? After watching the MetroStars fight through a game Chivas side and their own tendency to self destruct, it was evident that the answers to above the questions were “just enough.” Wee Bradley picked an ideal time for to open his MLS goal scoring account, but the undisputed star of the Metros’ 2-0 win at Chivas USA Sunday was home-town boy Meola, whose stellar effort in goal pushed his team to the MLS Cup playoffs and eliminated his former KC Wizards club. There was much grumbling amongst the Metro “faithful” (a loose term) when the 36-yr keeper returned to the Jersey side earlier this season, and some soft goals allowed down the stretch did little to endear Meola to the Metro fans, but after yesterday’s performance, all is forgiven. All hail Tony the Tiger!

No Magic
While Metro-land is all aglow today dreaming of an upset playoff victory over New England, the fans of “City,” as Derek Rae used to refer to the Wizards, must be utterly despondent. Blame for missing the playoffs can’t be directed at the Wiz’s result at the PHP on Saturday, however. KC hasn’t won a game since August 19th vs. Chicago – an eight-match winless streak (0-4-4) to end the regular season. With a dreary performance on the field and at the gate (9,961 avg. home attendance, last in MLS), and a “for sale” sign still hanging on the door, things look bleak for the franchise as a whole. Here’s to hoping things are brighter for the Wizards in 2006.

Bracketology: Semis Week 1
Now to the eight clubs that will be fighting it out for the silver Rothie. In the East, DC took the season series vs. Chicago (2-1-1), but the two haven’t faced each other since August 6th. In that match at Soldier Field, DC took a 3-0 lead on goals by Carroll, Kovalenko, and Moreno and hung on to for a 3-2 win. I see a similar result this weekend.

The Metro are surely riding high, but the Revs had a sharp outing vs. Chicago last week and should be in good form. The Metros, on the other hand, will just be happy to be playing. I say 2-1 Revs on an 89th minute goal by Clint Dempsey.

Out West, the playoff-style California Classico will continue in the Quakes’ favor. San Jose took the season series over LA by a 3-1 margin (3-2 if you count the USOC). On the road at the HDC, the Quakes will "Ching-Chung-tonight" their way to a 2-1 win.

Nobody’s really talking about Colorado, but the Rapids haven’t lost a match since September 17th, going 4-0-2 to finish the regular season. Yes, they’ve been playing mostly the expansion clubs for the last few weeks, but matches over inferior opponents build confidence, something Dallas is surely lacking after blowing a win in injury time on Saturday vs. KC. I feel a 2-0 Rapids win at Invesco, with MOT Dedi Ben Dayan and Jeff Cunnigham the goal scorers.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Down to the Wire

There’s so much about MLS to complain about. A quick visit to the BigSoccer N&A board will bring some salient topics to mind. However, with such a meaningful game at hand Saturday night in Dallas, it truly is a shame that TV coverage can’t be pulled together for the match. Surely there’s a few grand sitting in Don Garber’s petty cash account to get three high-quality cameras to the Deep Dish for an internet video broadcast. Announcers aren’t even needed (many fans would welcome the change, I suspect.) Hopefully the Hoops will give life to the Metros' playoff aspirations by dispatching the Wiz, and hopefully the Metros won’t be too distracted by the, um, talents of Chivagirl Adriana (pictured) to deliver the Metro Nation into a two-match playoff series with New England. The Revs, on a 1-2-2 slide, may be vulnerable come playoff time.

For your viewing pleasure... here are this weekend's TV highlights:

SATURDAY, Oct. 15
7:30am: EPL: Wigan-Newcastle, FSC
10:00am: GER: Stuttgart – Moenchengladbach, FSC
12noon: EPL: Chelsea - Bolton, FSC
12noon: ITA: Siena – Udinese, RAI
2:30pm: ITA: Juventus – Messina, RAI
3:00pm: ESP: Dep. La Coruna – Barcelona, GOL
6:00pm: MEX: Atlante – UAG, GALA
7:30pm: MLS: New England-Chicago, DK
7:30pm: MLS: DC United - Columbus, DK
7:30pm: MLS: Los Angeles – San Jose, FSC, DK
8:00pm: MEX: Chivas –Morelia, TELE
8:30pm: COL: Real Cartegena – America de Cali, GOL
10:00pm: MEX: Necaxa – Cruz Azul, TELE
12mid: MEX: Tigres-Atlas, GALA

SUNDAY, Oct. 16
9:00am: ITA: Lazio – Fiorentina, FSC
9:00am: ITA: Inter Milan – Livorno, GOL
11:00am: ITA: Caglari – AC Milan, FSC
11:00am: ESP: Osasuna – Celta de Vigo, GOL
1:00pm: EPL: Birmingham – Aston Villa, FSC
1:00pm: MEX: Unam – Toluca, UNI
3:00pm: ARG: River Plate – Boca Juniors, FSC (The SuperClasico!)
3:00pm: MEX: San Luis – Veracruz, GALA
4:00pm: MLS: Chivas USA – MetroStars, ESPN2
5:00pm: FRA: Lyon – Ajaccio, FSC
6:00pm: USA: Women’s NT – Australia, ESPN2
9:30pm: BRA: Palmeiras – Corinthians, GOL

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Hiss!


The US Rattler
Originally uploaded by mr fish.
Nike Soccer’s new USMNT “Don’t Tread on Me” campaign launched this morning with an awesome new online site and a terrific print ad “So Says This American Game,” in USA Today. Kudos to the copy writers at Nike/Weiden & Kennedy for the work. A sampling…

“Less than 20 short years ago, even microscopic island nations drooled rivers at the opportunity to dribble around us…Other nations do not scout us anymore; they toss and turn and develop digestive problems over us…This is soccer. A game for the flag-waving, tax-paying, apple-pie eating, Star-Spangled Banner-singing, red-blooded American.”

I got chills. Really. I hope Nike keeps it up all the way through to Germany, and best of luck to the boys vs. Panama tonight (8pm ET, ESPN2). Perhaps we'll see some new TV creative as well on the broadcast?

Boo!

MLS Commissioner Don Garber put a scare into the Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment folks trying to land a franchise in Toronto by laying down an October 31st deadline to get their Exhibition Place stadium plans in order. Speaking on a conference call yesterday afternoon, Garber made it clear that expansion will pass TO by without a firm construction plan that will get a stadium in place for an April 2007 kickoff. Apparently, MLS saw an opportunity to open the new market when Canada was awarded the 2007 FIFA World Youth (U-20) Championship. The league then approached MLSE, the owners of the NBA’s Raptors and NHL’s Maple Leafs and asked them to join the league. Other nuggets gleaned from the conf call:

-If all goes well with Toronto, MLS will announce the league’s 14th club at the MLS Cup in Frisco on 11/13
-Finalist cities include Houston, Philly, Cleveland, Milwaukee, and St. Louis
-The league will get an expansion fee “slightly higher” than the $10 million Chivas and RSL paid last year from MLSE
-The Toronto club will serve as the de-facto “Team Canada,” with a mostly Canadian roster. In the 1980’s, the NASL had a similar deal with US Soccer with the DC-based club “Team America”
-There may be a groundsharing agreement with the USL’s Toronto Lynx to play in the new stadium

Garber’s timetable gives MLSE just 14 business days to get their deal done. Best of luck to them. The Kin Of Fish will be fasting for a while, but will be back on Friday.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Vive le Frenchie!

Watching Youri Djorkaeff snap the ball past Nick Rimando Saturday night convinced me that he's the Metros MVP. Five of the Fabulous Frenchie's ten goals have been game-winners, and on numerous occasions this season Djorkaeff put the team on his back and carried them to victory. Next up for the squad is watching the Wiz at the Deep Dish this Saturday. A win or a draw by the Super Hoops makes things reasonably easy for Metro. A win by the Wiz and Metro needs to play Australia to Chivas' American Samoa on Sunday. There’s scuttlebutt today about Yallop & Lalas talking turkey (it was Canadian Thanksgiving, after all) about the coaching job. Lalas isn’t counting out Mo Johnston, and he shouldn’t. Johnston will be coaching somewhere in MLS next season.

All Wet
Even favored teams have an off night once in a while, but I don’t think the US was favored in its match at Costa Rica on Saturday. In one corner was a team playing as if its life depended on it, trying to clinch a World Cup bid in front of its home fans. In the other, a team with nothing to play for other than to impress the head coach. And, it’s pouring. And it’s on artificial turf. No one ever likes to lose 3-0, but folks, let’s keep it in perspective. Costa Rica needed it more than we did. Better to move on. Not sure what kind of crowd is expected in Foxboro tomorrow night for Panama, in the rain, on Yom Kippur, in a meaningless match for both sides, but I hope it’s a good show, and that Mr. Twellman finally finds the back of the net.

*Sigh*
Not sure how many of you heard this exchange between ESPN2’s Sean McDonough and his SoCo-sippin' color man on the miserable LSU-Vandy football game that delayed the US-Costa Rica telecast by forty minutes. I replayed it three times to make sure I got it right:

McDonough: “… and, unless you have a short memory, you know that soccer will be coming up after the game...and I think my partner is having a change of heart.”
Color Man: “I’m pulling for the US now... Are we favored?”
McDonough: “I have no idea.”

Our Home and Native Land?
Don Garberleone will be holding forth at 4pm today to possibly introduce the Toronto expansion team for 2007. Along with the RSL Stadium announcement, this could be quite a week in MLS history.

MLS Conference Semifinals Schedule:
Eastern Conference
#1 NE vs. #4 KC or MET
Game 1: NE at KC or MET, Sat Oct 22nd @ 7:30pm (FSC?)
Game 2: KC or MET at NE, Sat Oct 29th @ 8pm

#2 DC vs. #3 CHI
Game 1: DC at CHI, Fri Oct 21st @ 8:30pm
Game 2: CHI at DC, Sun Oct 30th @ 4:30pm on ESPN2

Western Conference
#1 SJ vs. #4 COL or LA
Game 1: SJ at COL or LA, Sat Oct. 22nd
Game 2: COL or LA at SJ, Sat Oct. 29th @ 10pm

#2 FCD or LA vs. #3 LA, COL, or FCD
Teams, Dates, Times TBD

Friday, October 07, 2005

Bring Out Your Dead

KC and Metro are both dead teams walking entering tomorrow’s penultimate league matches. The Wiz is home at the gaping maw that is Arrowhead vs. New England, and the Metros will dawdle down I-95 for a visit to the Nationals’ baseball stadium to take on a DC club that looks ready to retain their title. KC has gone a wretch-worthy 0-4-2 in their last six, while Metro has gone a mediocre 2-2-2. Neither of these teams look like they want a spot in the final eight. With both clubs’ title prospects so weak, however, who could blame them?

Quite a trip
Welcome to Panama? What? We’re supposed to be in Costa Rica? Oh, ok. Good luck to the Nats tomorrow night at the Saprissa. With a pumped tico crowd behind them and more to play for than our boys, I’m predicting a 2-1 Costa Rica win. No one get hurt, please. Personal shout-outs for favorable results for Israel, Senegal, and Holland tomorrow – Holla!

The Tube
The weekend east coast forecast is rain, rain, and more rain, so we know those wusses who play with bat and ball will be inside, watching soccer on TV. Here’s a sampling of what’s on the tube of boob, with a heavy serving of World Cup quallies:

Saturday, Oct. 8:
11:00am: WCQ: Russia - Luxembourg, FSC
1:00pm: WCQ: Bulgaria – Hungary, FSC
4:00pm: WCQ: Italy – Slovenia, TELE
7:30pm: MLS: DC United – MetroStars, DK
7:30pm: BRA: Corinthinans – Fortaleza, GOL
8:00pm: MLS: Kansas City – New England, DK
8:30pm: MLS: Chicago – Columbus, DK, FSC
8:30pm: MLS: FC Dallas – Colorado, DK, HDNet
9:00pm: WCQ: Mexico – Guatemala, TELE
9:30pm: HON: Marathon-Victoria, GOL
10:00pm: WCQ: Costa Rica-USA, espn2
10:00pm: MLS: San Jose – Real Salt Lake, DK

Sunday, Oct. 9
4:00pm: WCQ: Bolivia- Brazil, TELE
5:00pm: EXH: Chivas/Chivas USA XI- Santos, FSC
7:30pm: GUA: Comunicaciones – Suchitpequez, GOL

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Required Reading

Want to know how much it costs to run an MLS franchise? The ECG's and YCJ's Andy Mead has located the answer in Convention Sports & Leisure’s “Feasibility Study for a Proposed Stadium, Sports Complex, and Retail Development” report for the Kansas City Sports Commission and Foundation. The 200+ page document (it reads much quicker – really!) is a treasure trove of info about MLS, how it operates it franchises, and what it really takes to run a soccer franchise in the US of A. Check it out.

*Snif*
What really can be said about last night’s Metro collapse at Soldier Field? That the result proves that Metro is cursed? That the team has thrown in the towel? That it’s beyond belief that the match went untelevised? That Mo Johnston has only two more matches at the helm of the Metro? I think the answer is yes to all those questions. I guess this is what it’s like to be an Arizona Cardinals fan, or an LA Clippers fan. Underachieving for a decade really blows. Truly.

Orgullo
The Mexicans have had a great week. First, their U-17s throw a smack-down on Brazil to win their first World Championship in Peru. Last night, both Mexican squads in the Copa Sudamericana advanced to the tournament’s quarterfinals, where UNAM Pumas will face off against Brazil's Corinthians and Club America has Argentina's Velez Sarsfield. At least we won't see an all-Mexican final; the winners of the above matches will meet in the Copa semis.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

'06 Here We Come!

Bob Bradley’s booting yesterday (after a horrendous Metro effort in a 4-1 pasting by DC United) saved the coach more embarrassment as the team limps towards a likely fifth-place finish in the MLS East. Bradley’s dismissal will only allow the Jersey native to seek employment earlier than planned, as a new coach was always in GM Alexi Lalas’ designs for the team. You can’t blame Lalas, though, for pulling the trigger, as the team has produced a number of uninspired efforts during the ’05 campaign, such as:

• A 2-2 draw at RSL on July 4th
• A 1-0 loss at Columbus on July 20th, with the goal given up in stoppage time
• A 3-0 dismantling at DC on August 10th
• A 3-3 draw vs. Chivas on August 21st – Metro was down 3-1 in the 2nd half
• A 1-0 loss at New England on September 24th

Who will be the next Metro coach? Your guess is as good as mine, though former Earthquakes and current Canadian national coach Frank Yallop is the subject of rumors. Former Galaxy coach Sigi Schmid is out there as well, though rumors have the portly one heading to Columbus. Newly elevated Mo Johnston is unlikely, which is a shame. Thomas Rongen? Watch your mouth!

Newly Minted Yanks
I’ve never understood the BigSoccer posters who line the USMNT board with “Cap (fill in the blank) now!” postings. I mean I’m all for finding new talent for the team, but there’s a rich player pool of current players that need experience before the U-17 squad is rushed into full national team duty. Saturday's match at the Saprissa vs. Costa Rica, and next Wednesday's game vs. Panama in Foxboro should give The Bruce ample opportunity to get some new blood onto the field, including Ricardo Clark, Jonathan Spector, Santino Quaranta, and yes, Taylor Twellman. Big ups to Arena for not completely filling in his roster with untested youngsters, though, as vets Lewis, Mastro, Pope, and Albright should provide leadership and calm to the young’uns.

WTF?
Hack Paul Gardner apparently ran up a hill to pen this masterpiece at Soccernet.com. While I agree in principle with MLS clubs developing players, I just don't get the man's style.

With two weeks to go, here’s the MLS Eastern picture…
Team, Pts, GD, Matches remaining (H/A), Most Possible Points
1. New England 55, +17, (1/1), 61
2. DC United 50, +20, (2/1), 59
3. Chicago 48, +1 (2/1), 57
4. Kansas City 43, +8, (1/1), 49
----------------------------------
MetroStars 40, +1, (0/3), 49
Columbus 34, -11 (0/3) 43

Key matches this week:
Wed 10/5: RSL v DC, CHI v MET, CMB v FCD
Sat 10/8: KC v NE, DC v MET, CHI v CMB

Friday, September 30, 2005

Abridged Version

Congrats to the US Open Cup champ LA Galaxy and fans of the Colorado Rapids on the Commerce City stadium groundbreaking. Enjoy the weekend. The Kin of Fish will be back on Wednesday.

Clip ‘n’ Save
Lots of footie fun on the tube this weekend, including all six MLS matches, many with playoff implications. Here’s a sampling (all times ET)…

Saturday, 10/1
10:00am: GER: Eintract Frankfurt –Schalke on FSC
Noon: EPL: Sunderland – West Ham on FSC
Noon: ITA: Chievo – Treviso on RAI
2:00pm: ESP: Barthelona – Real Zaragotha on GOL
3:00pm: EPL: Charlton – Tottenham on FSC
4:00pm: MEX: Toluca – Chiapas on Galavision
6:00pm: MEX: Monterrey – Santos on Galavision
6:30pm: ITA: Udinese – Lazio on GOL
7:30pm: MLS: Columbus – Chivas on DK, HDNet
7:30pm: MLS: MetroStars – Scum, I mean DC United on DK, MSG, CSN
7:30pm: MLS: New England – San Jose on DK, WLVI
8:00pm: MLS: Kansas City – Chicago on DK, Comcast
8:30pm: COL: Millonarios – Santa Fe on GOL
9:00pm: MLS: Colorado – Real Salt Lake on DK, Altitude, KSL
10:00pm: MLS: Los Angeles – FC Dallas on DK, FSN West 2, KLDT
10:00pm: MEX: Atlas – Atlante on Telefutura
11:00pm: USL-1 Final: Seattle – Richmond on FSC

Sunday, 10/2
8:00am: ITA: Fiorentina – Livorno on RAI
9:00am: ITA: Lecce – Cagliari on FSC
9:00am: ITA: AC Milan – Reggiana on GOL
11:00am: ESP: Deportivo La Coruna – Osasuna on GOL
1:00pm: EPL: Arsenal – Birmingham on FSC
2:30pm: ITA: Juventus – Inter Milan on GOL, RAI
4:00pm: U-17: 3rd Place game: Turkey – Holland on FSC
4:30pm: ESP: Malaga – Real Madrid on GOL
5:00pm: MEX: America – San Luis on Telefutura
7:00pm: U-17: Final: Mexico – Brazil on FSC, Galavision
9:30pm: BRA: Corinthians – Brasiliense on GOL

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Lalas (Sort of) Live

Metro GM Alexi Lalas took time out of his day to tackle some tough questions from fans in a chat on Metrostars.com. Not only did he field a marketing question from yours truly (3rd question in) but the red-haired one pulled the curtain back a bit to note:
  • Tailgating won't be an option at Harrison, though there will be pubs & restaurants near the stadium
  • Harrison may not be ready for the 2007 season
  • Ticket prices will come down for 2006
  • He loves AC/DC
  • He believes that the US isn't producing "soccer entertainers" on the field
  • Amado Guevara may not be a MetroStar next season
  • He's expecting 20K fans for this Saturday's match vs. DC
  • Daniel Garipe should make his Metro debut vs. DC

By the questions asked, one can ascertain the frustration and gloom that has gripped the Metro nation this season. A win vs. DC and positive results down the stretch will go a long way toward righting the ship, however. Respect to Lalas for answering the tough questions with humor and humility.

The Final Countdown


The Dewar-US Open Cup
Originally uploaded by mr fish.
There will be a two-time champion crowned when the LA Galaxy meets FC Dallas in the US Open Cup final tonight at the HDC (GolTV, 11pm ET). The Galaxy has beaten Chivas USA, San Jose, and the USL-1’s Minnesota Thunder to reach the final, while FC Dallas, which entered the competition in the third round, defeated the USL-2’s Wilmington Hammerheads and fellow MLS clubs Columbus, DC United, and Chicago en route to the championship match. Tonight’s all-MLS final continues a trend, as it’s been six years since a lower-division club has reached the final match. Here are the USOC finals in the MLS era:

1996: DC United 3-0 Rochester
1997: Dallas Burn 0 (5) – 0 (3) DC United
1998: Chicago 2-1 Columbus
1999: Rochester 2-0 Colorado
2000: Chicago 2-1 Miami Fusion
2001: LA Galaxy 2-1 New England
2002: Columbus 1-0 LA Galaxy
2003: Chicago 1-0 MetroStars
2004: Kansas City 1-0 Chicago gg

Note that San Jose is the only original MLS club to not reach a cup final. Although two MLS teams will be competing tonight, two lower-division sides were the stories of this year’s tournament: The PDL’s Des Moines Menace, an amateur club, played way above its head in defeating the USL-2’s Pittsburgh Riverhounds and the USL-1’s Charleston Battery and Atlanta Silverbacks, before succumbing to the KC Wizards in round four. The Minnesota Thunder, led by Liberians Melvin Tarley (who was sold to RSL) and Jonny Menyongar, did the USL proud by knocking off three MLS sides (RSL, Colorado, KC) to reach the cup semis.

Much debate as been made concerning the USSF’s shoddy marketing of the Cup, and that cup matches are usually played at “alternative” smaller venues when MLS clubs are the hosts. As it stands, LA will downsize the HDC to a capacity of 10,000 for tonight’s match. There’s no easy answer here. The clubs and leagues need to shoulder the load in both educating their fans on the importance of the competition and marketing the matches. Getting the final on national TV is a great thing, but hopefully MLS/SUM/USSF can bundle more cup matches in when the next television contracts are up for renewal. Best of luck to both Dallas and LA tonight.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Missed It By… That Much

The US played well, hit the woodwork a couple of times, but fell to Jeffrey Sarpong’s two goals for the Netherlands in the FIFA U-17 World Championship Quarterfinals. The US started strong, but lost steam after Kevin Alston suffered a broken leg after a tackle by Holland’s John Goossens. Sarpong’s goal in first-half injury time gave the Dutch the 1-0 halftime lead. The US effort was also hampered by a red-card expulsion by Neven Subotic in the 75th minute. Sarpong crushed the US hopes by scoring on a counterattack with six minues to play. The US finishes the tournament with a 2-1-1 record and the Group C title. The Netherlands will face Mexico in one semifinal, which Turkey meets Brazil in the other. Congrats to the US for a strong showing. Both the U-17s and the U-20s won their groups in World Championships this year. Perhaps the senior team can carry those vibes into Germany next summer? Stay tuned, and RIP Don Adams.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Leaving It ‘Til Late

Coming into Saturday’s match, MetroStars and New England Revolution had played three times this MLS season, and in every match, the game-deciding goal was scored in the 85th minute or later:

-May 21st @ Giants Stadium: Twellman scored in the 89th to give NE a 2-2 draw
-June 25th @ Gilette: Ralston breaks a tie in the 86th and the Revs win, 4-2
-Sept. 17th @ Giants Stadium: Youri’s 89th minute blast off Reis gives Metro a 5-4 win

It came as no surprise, then, that Saturday’s crucial contest (for the Metro, anyway) was settled with only minutes to spare as the Revs’ James Riley found himself unmarked in the six-yard box and scored in the 85th minute, giving New England a 1-0 victory.

With the win, the Revs became the first Eastern Conference club to clinch a playoff berth, and is in possession of an eight-point lead for home field advantage. The Metros, however, had a five-match unbeaten run snapped and lost a chance to gain ground on the 4th place K.C. Wizards, who dropped a 2-1 decision at LA last night. Much could be settled this coming weekend, and four Eastern Rivals face off. Chicago, for instance, could find themselves in 2nd, 3rd, or 4th after this weekend’s matches. It’s easy to see why the past few games have been so entertaining, as the teams are ratcheting up their intensity level for meaningful matches.

The current Eastern Conference picture:
Team, Pts, GD, Matches remaining (H/A), Most Possible Points
1. New England 55, +19, (2/1), 64
2. DC United 47, +17, (2/2), 59
3. Chicago 45, +2 (2/3), 60
4. Kansas City 43, +19, (2/1), 52
----------------------------------
MetroStars 40, +4, (1/3), 52
Columbus 34, -10 (1/3) 46

Matches this week:
Sat 10/1: NE v SJ, MET v DC, KC v CHI, CMB v CHV

Tough Lima Beans
The US U-17 squad was 5 minutes away from emerging from the first round with a perfect record, but the Cote d’Ivoire’s Siaka Bamba scored in the 87th minute to force a 1-1 draw. The result didn’t prevent the US from winning the group, though, and the Mini-Nats will face off against a strong Holland team today (5pm et, FSC) in the quarterfinals in Peru. Holland made it through group play with wins over Gambia and Qatar and a loss to Brazil. If the US advances, they’ll face… Mexico, who scored late vs. Costa Rica in their quarterfinal to take their match to extra time, then scored two in the extra frame for a 3-1 win. Hopefully our boys aren’t looking ahead, and best of luck to them today.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Good Showing

To tell you the truth, I was expecting DC to fold easily last night after their red-eye to Santiago for their Copa Sud match vs. U. Catolica. I was pleasantly surprised after United took the lead on an early goal by Christian Gomez. When Jaime Moreno missed a penalty kick, though, I knew that the soccer gods weren’t smiling on DC. Then Gomez made me believe again when he scored on a freaky rebound of the post & the back of the Catolica keeper. Though DC led 2-1 at the half, two late goals by Catolica, the last coming in the 87th minute, sunk DC in their first-ever Copa Sud tie, 4-3 on aggregate. Despite the crushing loss, though, DC played well on the road and has a lot to be proud about. Hopefully United’s one-and-out experience won’t deter CONMEBOL from inviting another MLS club into next year’s competition.

DC’s exit from the Copa means that all Eastern clubs can focus 100% on the last few weeks of the MLS season. Heading into the weekend, only 12 points separate the first-place Revs from the fifth-place Metros, and the two will meet for the final time this season in Foxboro on Saturday night. With both DC and Chicago off this weekend, KC and the Metros could tighten things up even further for the final stretch.

The current Eastern Conference picture:
Team, Pts, GD, Matches remaining (H/A), Most Possible Points
1. New England 52, +18, (3/1), 64
2. DC United 47, +17, (2/2), 59
3. Chicago 45, +0 (2/2), 57
4. Kansas City 43, +10, (2/2), 55
----------------------------------
MetroStars 40, +5, (1/4), 55
Columbus 31, -11 (1/4) 46

This weekend's matches of import:
9/24: NE vs. MET (7:30pm et, DK & FSC)
9/24: RSL vs. CMB (9:30pm et, DK & HDNet)
9/25: LA vs. KC (8pm et, DK)

CONCACAF Strength
Heading into today’s final first round-match of the FIFA U-17 World Championships, the US is one of three participating CONCACAF nations to qualify for the tournament’s quarterfinals. Costa Rica beat host Peru yesterday to win Group A, and the Mexicans have advanced out of group B despite yesterday’s 2-1 loss to Turkey. The US has already clinched their berth ahead of today’s match with Cote d’Ivoire (4:30pm et, FSC). Unfortunately, we can’t have an ’85 Big East-like Final Four, as Costa Rica will meet Mexico in the quarters on Sunday.

Wuzzon?
If El Guapo asked you if he had a plethora of matches to watch this weekend, he'd be right. Here's a sampling of what's on, and when:

Saturday 9/24
7:30am: EPL: Birmingham City-Liverpool on FSC
10:00am: GER: Werder Bremen-Bayer Leverjusen on FSC
10:00am: ESP: Real Madrid-Atletico Bilboa on GOL
11:30am: ITA: Parma-Juventus on GOL
12 noon: EPL Bolton-Portsmouth on FSC
1:30pm: ESP: Betis-Barcelona on GOL
3:00pm: EPL: West Ham-Arsenal on FSC
6:00pm: MEX: Monterrey-Tigres on Galavision
7:30pm: MLS: New England-Metrostars on FSC
10:00pm: MEX: Atlas-Chiapas on Telefutura

Sunday 9/25
9:00am: ITA: Cagliari-Roma on FSC
9:00am: ITA: Sampdoria-Chievo on GOL
11:00am: ESP: Alaves-Real Madrid on GOL
1:00pm: MEX: Pachuca-Chivas on Univision
3:00pm: FRA: Lens-Rennes on FSC
3:00pm: ITA: Inter-Fiorentina on GOL
5:00pm: U-17 Quarterfinal on FSC
5:00pm: MEX: America-Necaxa on Telefutura
7:00pm: USL-1: Semifinal on FSC
8:00pm: U-17 Quarterfinal on Galavision
8:00pm: MLS: Los Angeles-Kansas City on Direct Kick
9:30pm: BRA: Flamengo-Corinthians on GOL

Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Two For Two


Kyle Nakazawa Celebrates (ISI)
Originally uploaded by mr fish.

For the second straight match, the US scored three goals en route to victory in the FIFA U-17 World Championship in Peru. Yesterday the team beat Italy 3-1 to clinch a spot in the 16-team competition’s quarterfinals. The goal scorers were Ofori Sarkodie, Kyle Nakazawa, and Ryan Soroka, the latter two scoring their second goals of the tournament. The Mini-nats will try to close out Group C with a perfect record on Friday when they face 0-2 Cote D’Ivoire (FSC, 4:30pm ET). Based on their finish, the US will face Gambia, Holland, or (ugh) Brazil in the quarters.

Geared up

My fellow Metro fans are split on this one, but I think all MLS fans have to pull for DC United in their Copa Sudamericana second-leg match vs. U. Catolica in Santiago, Chile on Thursday night (FSC, 8pm ET). While MLS sides played well vs. European clubs this summer, it's in competitions like this that we can see just how far the league has come. DC, who may be without Santino Quaranta and Jamil Walker, needs at least a 2-2 draw (thanks, d) to advance to the quarterfinals, where the four-time MLS champs would face Fluminese of Brazil or Banfield of Argentina. Best of luck. Hey d, any DC fanaticos making the trip?

In Limbo has a great analysis of Bob Bradley's woes with the Metro. Check it out.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Thanks, Grant!


Grant Wahl (SI.com)
Originally uploaded by mr fish.
I'm honored that Grant Wahl has selected The Kin Of Fish as one his "starting XI" soccer blogs. Hope you all enjoy reading the site as much as I enjoy writing it. Thanks, Grant!

Monday, September 19, 2005

Big Ups to the Mini-Nats


The US U-17 Squad (ISI)
Originally uploaded by mr fish.
The US got the biennial FIFA U-17 World Championship in Peru going in fine style, beating Kim-Jong Il’s gang, 3-2 in Chiclayo. The US scored all of its goals off set pieces, and US keeper Bryant Rueckner let in a howler when he collided with defender Kevin Alston, dropping the ball to the foot of Myong Ho Choe, who poked in the North Koreans' first goal. The US goal scorers were Ryan Soroka, Kyle Nakazawa and Preston Zimmerman.Next up, the Italians on Tuesday (4:30pm on FSC), who beat the Cote D’Ivoire in a lively match, 4-3. A win should put the US through to the quarterfinals. Good luck, guys!

Guts, Take Two


Merci, Youri. (AP)
Originally uploaded by mr fish.

Even if they miss the 2005 postseason, the MetroStars have shown more guts over the last two matches than they’ve shown in the previous twenty. Last week, the team held off KC on the road while playing a man down for the final 35 minutes. On Saturday, the team took three vital points in a thrilling 5-4 win against Supporter’s Shield contender New England. The stars of the Metro played huge, like French World Cup hero Youri Djorkaeff who all but willed the team to victory with two goals and an assist, including the game winning blast in the 86th minute against a poorly-positioned Matt Reis. Mike Magee played his best game of the year, scoring two goals, none bigger than the 76th minute-strike that evened the match at four. Magee took a picture-perfect pass from Michael Bradley & put one past Reis just two minutes after Taylor Twellman had put the Revs ahead. Twellman's goal had seemingly shifted all the momentum to New England. Amado Guevara had a goal and an assist, and Ante Razov added three assists in a night that made one proud to be a Metro fan and an MLS fan. If you haven’t seen the highlights, you owe it to yourself to check them out. The best part… the two teams go at it again this Saturday at the Big Razor. The night would have been perfect for the Metro if Columbus could have held Chicago to a draw, and LA could have defeated KC, but the fantastic win vs. New England will be enough for one week. Saturday’s match will surely go down as one of the best in Metro history. It’s no consolation that the Metro sits in 6th place in an MLS single table, and that the team would sit in 2nd place in the Western Conference, but c’est la vie.

The current Eastern Conference picture:
Team, Pts, GD, Matches remaining (H/A), Most Possible Points
1. New England 51, +18, (3/2), 66
2. DC United 47, +17, (2/2), 59
3. Chicago 45, +2 (2/3), 60
4. Kansas City 43, +10, (2/2), 55
----------------------------------
MetroStars 40, +5, (1/4), 55
Columbus 30, -11 (2/4) 48

Matches this week:
Wed 9/21: NE vs. CMB, SJ vs. CHI
Thu 9/22: U. Catolica vs. DCU in the Copa Sudamericana
Sat 9/24: NE vs. MET, LA vs. KC, CMB @ RSL

Thursday, September 15, 2005

At the Cope-ah


United v. Catolica (AP)
Originally uploaded by mr fish.
Have to say that I’m happy that mid-week Cup matches have become a part of the US soccer culture, especially when the games had such meaning. DC’s 1-1 draw vs. U. Catolica in the Copa Sudamericana Wednesday night was a tense affair, and kudos to FSC for picking up the broadcast. Catolica looked more relaxed and experienced than DC, and the late first-half goal certainly added to their confidence. Give DC credit, though, for attacking well against the bunkered Chileans. United maintained possession well through stretches of the match, and definitely earned their draw. Big ups to super sub Jamil Walker on his goal. Based on the matchup, though, I’d be floored if DC was able to get a result in Chile later this month.

Unfortunately, neither of the two USOC semifinals were televised. Congrats to FC Dallas and LA Galaxy for making to the final on Sept. 28th (GolTV) at the HDC. What this tournament really needs is some marketing muscle behind it, however. If US Soccer marketing was smart (hmm…) they’d try to sell the title sponsorship of the tournament to an MLS/SUM sponsor. How about “The Pepsi Lamar Hunt US Open Cup,” rolls of the tongue, doesn’t it? A title sponsor could build awarness of the event, big time. Anyway, I’m glad to hear how seriously the players take one of the oldest tournaments in modern North American sports. If only the fed, leagues, and teams took the Cup that seriously.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Gritty, gutty Metros


Mmm... donuts. (wireimage.com)
Originally uploaded by mr fish.
Being a Metros fan is a really tough. The team’s decade of futility has produced few shining moments – a one-goal loss in the 2000 MLS Cup semifinals at Chicago, a one-goal loss in the USOC Final to the Fire in 2003, and that’s about it. This past Saturday night at Arrowhead, however, the Metros showed heart, brains, and effort (all in the same match!) and beat Kansas City 1-0 to keep their slim playoffs hopes alive. Playing in front of a teeny-tiny crowd (mostly Tony Meola’s family and friends), the Metros got a lucky goal by Eddie Gaven shortly before half-time and played the final 35 minutes down a man after Tim Regan picked up a second yellow card. Meola got his first shutout since returning to the team earlier this season, and amazingly, the Metros got their first 1-0 victory of the year in their twenty-sixth match. Big ups to subs Chris Leitch and Mark Lisi, two defensive minded subs who showed their mettle staying behind the ball after the squad was reduced to ten men. The victory, the team’s first on the road since May, has the Metros within five points of Chicago and KC for the final Eastern spot. Metro should be rested for Saturday’s home clash vs. the Revs, though DC and Chicago face midweek competition that may hurt their league efforts this weekend. Here’s how the picture looks today:

The Current picture:
Team, Pts, GD, Matches remaining (Home/Away), Most Possible Points
1. New England 51, +19, (3/3), 69
2. DC United 44, +15, (3/2), 59
3. Kansas City 42, +10, (3/2), 57
4. Chicago 42, +1, (2/4), 60
----------------------------------
MetroStars 37, +4, (2/4), 55
Columbus 30, -10 (3/4) 51

Matches this week:
Tue 9/13: DCU vs. Univ. Catolica in Copa Sudamericana
Wed 9/14: FCD vs. CHI in US Open Cup
Sat 9/17: MET vs. NE, CMB vs. CHI, DCU vs COL, KC vs LA

Friday, September 09, 2005

MLS' Big 'To

Looks more and more like MLS is headed to the Great White North for it’s next club. Speaking at a gathering of Milwaukee investors and fans, grande queso Don Garber “said the next round of expansion should come in 2007, when Toronto is expected to join the league.”

Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, owners of the NHL Leafs and NBA Raptors, is in place to serve as investor-operators, and there’s a twenty thousand seat stadium in the works that has to be ready for the ‘07 FIFA U-20 Championship. The stadium will apparently include an “inflatable winter roof” so the field will be playable year-round. There’s a little bit of political back-and-forth going on in terms of the stadium location, but if the home of the Blizzard (?) is to be ready by April of ’07, these issues need to be solved quickly.

Point of information: the NASL Toronto Blizzard/Metros/Metros-Croatia drew 15,000+ fans in 1980, their most successful season. Between 1979 and 1984, Toronto attracted an average of 10,905 fans/season, a number that would fit right in with KC or San Jose.

I’m not sure how I feel about a Canadian club joining the league, especially when there are so many US cities that could support MLS. Of course, Toronto seems to have everything that Garber & Co. want: solid ownership, an SSS plan, a soccer-hungry fan base. I’ve read that the club will be stocked with mostly Canadian players, which doesn’t thrill me all that much, but I guess if Chivas can play with a mostly Hispanic roster, it shouldn’t be that big a deal. They won't be a road draw, that's for sure. In the search for national sports relevance, however, I think heading to Houston (which may still happen for SJ or KC), Philly (where to play, who to own?) or Seattle (Paul Allen, please pick up the white courtesy phone) should be a top priority.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Bloated Expectations


Johnson Chases (AP)
Originally uploaded by mr fish.

Remember the days, not too long ago, that the US feared playing World Cup Qualifiers in Central America? During the last qualifying cycle, the US was jobbed on a fantasy pk call in Costa Rica to drop a game, and the same happened in Guatemala to turn a win into a tie. This time around, of course, the road has been kind to the US, and even when Bruce Arena trots out a young b-team on the road in CONCACAF, the expectation is a victory. Last night’s scoreless draw in Guatemala City was an ok result, and the defense played well, but the Yanks could have easily won the match by three goals if its finishing was sharper.

Here’s a look at who helped their Deutschland dreams last night, and who hindered them.

Helped:
Marcus Hahnemann: Make some dazzling saves in net, and is in line for the #2 keeper position, assuming Sir Alex doesn’t start playing Tim Howard this season.

Bobby Convey: Generated most of the early scoring chances for the US on the left wing, and punished the Guatemalan defenders who tried to take him on 1-on-1.

Jimmy Conrad: A steady, if not solid match in the center back position. Should get playing time in Costa Rica and vs. Panama. A strong defensive sub prospect for Germany.

Chris Albright: I’m not a fan, but he had a good match last night. Imposing size, especially vs. the vertically-challenged chapines.

Hurt:
Taylor Twellman: Oy. Taylor. You wonder when the kid will snap and pick the ball up and throw it in the goal. He runs forever, and helps break up plays on D, (Capt. Kirk Voice) But. He. Just. Can’t. Score.

Clint Dempsey: Was he tired? Did he have a stomach problem? What an off match. Hey kid, Bruce believes in you – he even tried you in two positions last night to find a fit for you. You’ve got to start delivering out there.

Greg Vanney: Yuck. May have played himself off next summer’s squad. Gave up too many balls, hit too many sightless clearing passes to the opposition.

Fair-to-middling: Marshall, Quaranta, Cunningham, Johnson

Already there: Donovan, Mastroeni

Incomplete: Ralston

Oh, and Mr. Hall-of-fame Balboa. It’s MAS-TRO-ENN-EE, not MAS-TREE-OH-NEE. Say it, just like it reads, ok? Ok.

That giant sucking sound
The Metro aren’t going to get to the playoffs by drawing every match. That sound you hear is the season slipping away. Saturday, Ante Razov hit a late ball to salvage another home draw, 2-2 vs. KC, leaving Metro seven points out of the playoffs with seven matches to play, and Columbus is coming up on the outside. Luckily, DC will have the Copa Sudamericana to worry about down the MLS stretch. Things are so bleak among Metro faithful that fans hope the team tanks to get coach Bob Bradley a pink slip.

The Current picture:
Team, Pts, GD, Matches remaining (Home/Away), Most Possible Points
1. New England 48, +17, (4/3), 69
2. Kansas City 42, +11, (4/2), 60
3. Chicago 42, +1, (2/4), 60
4. DC United 41, +14, (3/3), 59
----------------------------------
MetroStars 34, +3, (2/5), 55
Columbus 30, -8 (3/5) 54

Matches this week:
Sat 9/10: NE vs. CMB, KC vs. MET, FCD vs. DCU

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Are the Arenas a Nielsen family?


Bruce Arena (Allsport)
Originally uploaded by mfishkin.
Yesterday US Coach Bruce Arena told the US soccer community to “put up or shut up,” in discussing the challenges that the USSF had in getting Saturday’s WCQ with Mexico on live, English-language television. To Il Bruce, I say, no matter how many friends I invite over to watch the match, no matter how many friends and family members I tell to watch the match, it won’t make a bit of difference on the television rating that Saturday’s match collects. Why? Because I’m not, or don’t have access to a Nielsen family.

It’s hard to believe, but the nation’s television ratings are determined by an ever-changing list of 5,100 households across America. 28,000 more households in top cities are measured for local market ratings. Maybe the USSF should spend a little of their reported $30 million surplus on advertising its matches to help casual soccer fans find the matches on television. I mean ESPN Classic is a little tougher to locate on the dial than say, ABC. To the Fed, I say, YOU put up. Then Bruce, you shut up.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Please Help

It looks like the news is getting worse by the moment in New Orleans, one of the US' most beautiful cities, and one of my favorite places on Earth. I've had the good fortune to visit The Big Easy three times in the last five years for Jazz Fest, and along with the incredible music and amazing food we found friendly people and beautiful architecture there.

Right now, however, there are tens, if not hundreds of thousands of those friendly people who have lost everything they owned and need your help. Please visit the Red Cross and give whatever you can. If you work for a large company, please ask your HR department if they'll match your contribution. Thanks.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

An Open, um, Posting, to Jack Bell at the NYT

Jack,

I look forward to reading your "Soccer Report" that appears each Tuesday in the New York Times. However, this morning's column, Wizards' Klein is Healthy Again, deflects attention away from THE soccer story of the week - the US WC '06 qualifier this Saturday vs. Mexico. I've read that The Times has asked you not to write too many "rah-rah" pieces about the US and the MetroStars, but if there was ever a week to push your editors, it was this one.

By burying the news about the match until the fifth paragraph, and then referring to it merely as an aside, you did a disservice to soccer in America. While focusing on Chris Klein's desire to get back on the US squad, you ignored many other angles that could have directed attention to match, such as:
  • The convergence of soccer and college football fans on a single day in Columbus
  • The challenge of getting the match televised on live english-language television
  • The wealth of Euro-based goal scorers on the US squad
  • The challenge of creating a US-friendly crowd
  • The sheer magnitude of the match here and south of the border

I know that as a journalist, your responsibility is to the reader, but really, you missed an opporuntity to expand awareness of Saturday's match. And that's a shame.

Monday, August 29, 2005

The Time is Now


Cesar Daniel Garipe
Originally uploaded by mfishkin.
They’re still on the outside looking in, but the Metros are getting help from their Eastern Conference rivals in the race for playoff spots. Both Kansas City and DC United took tough losses this weekend to buoy the Metros’ hopes ahead of this Saturday untelevised (hmph) tilt with the Wiz in the Swamp. Here’s how the teams sit today:

Team, Pts, GD, Matches remaining (Home/Away), Most Possible Points
1. New England 45, +16, (4/4), 69
2. Kansas City 41, +11, (4/3), 62
3. Chicago 39, 0, (2/5), 60
4. DC United 38, +11, (4/4), 62
----------------------------------
MetroStars 33, +3, (3/5), 57

Matches this week:
Wed 8/31: RSL @ DC
Sat 9/3: KC @ MET, DC @ COL, NE @ RSL
Sun 9/4: CHI @ LA

Of course, MLS rosters will be impacted significantly by the 9/3 World Cup qualifiers. Expected absences include:
New England: Ralston, Twellman, Dempsey
Kansas City: Conrad, Sealy, Wolff, Zavagnin
Chicago: Armas, Mapp
DC United: Quaranta
Metros: none, thanks for asking

Not only will the Metros have a delapidated KC lineup, but the team is expected to sign Argentinian defensive midfielder Cesar Daniel Garipe this week. Garipe, along with Amado Guevara and Youri Djorkaeff, may provide a steady spine to a team that will be getting back numerous starters from injuries, including Ante Razov, Carlos Mendes, Tim Ward, Tim Regan and Jeff Agoos. If the Metros are to make the playoffs, and save coach Bob Bradley’s job in the process, the stars seem to be aligning. The time is now.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

The ROAD to the Cup

Road was the key word last night as all four road teams won their US Open Cup quarterfinal matches. I’d defer to the source on the competition, but that’s got to be a record. Carlos Ruiz scored the tying goal in injury time for FC Dallas, who took DC on penalties, and Chicago did the same at Rochester. 2nd division Minnesota got a brace from Johnny Menyongar (above) in a convincing 3-1 win at the defending champions Kansas City, and LA got two goals from Herculez Gomez to win a California Cup Classico at San Jose, 2-1. The semi matchups on September 14th: Chicago at Dallas, and Minnesota at LA.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Yuck.

What can really be learned from yesterday’s, um, competition at the Bernabeu where Real Madrid beat the Washington Generals, I mean the “MLS Select XI” 5-0?

Not much, really. Real dominated from start to finish, though for the first twenty minutes of each half the MLS gang played ok. Here are my thoughts on players that helped or hurt their chances of getting “discovered” by European scouts who pried themselves away from Partizan Belgrade – Artmedia Bratislava to watch the match:

Helped:
Jeff Cunningham. He’s fast (as we know) and he made some dangerous runs. If Eddie Johnson and DaMarcus Beasley aren’t ready for 9/3, will Bruce start him up top with McBride vs. Mexico?

Amado Guevara. The MLS game seemed to pick up a bit when he replaced Jamie Moreno.

Matt Reis. Yes, he gave up 5 goals, but what goals! Reis turned away a few quality chances throughout the match.

Shalrie Joseph. While not stellar, he did ok until Guevara came in to run the midfield for MLS. Went the distance. As said on FSC, it’s a shame he decided to play national-team ball for his native Grenada. He’d be an asset for the Yanks.

Hurt:
Landon Donovan. As we know, he plays best when he’s happy, and he was clearly unhappy and in need of a rest. Perhaps missing his USOC quarterfinal tonight won’t be such a bad thing. As Sigi said on the telecast, he normally plays a bit more withdrawn, not up top as vs. Real. Just not a good showing from the balding one. Not that he needs to be "discovered," anyway.

Justin Mapp. Not ready for prime time. Was a non-entity out there.

Pablo Mastroeni & Jimmy Conrad. Tough to put them in this bucket, though they were burned, badly, by one of the best scorers in the world.

Cup time again
Only eight teams remain in the hunt for Lamar’s US Open Cup tonight, including six clubs (Chicago, DC United, FC Dallas, Kansas City, Los Angeles, and Rochester) that have won the prize before. The matchups:

Rochester (II) vs. Chicago
DC United vs. FC Dallas
Kansas City vs. Minnesota (II)
San Jose vs. Los Angeles

Second division clubs Rochester and Minnesota should be emboldened as their opponents will be missing key players who took the plane to Spain. Chicago will be without Justin Mapp, Kansas City will miss Jose Burciaga and Jimmy Conrad. In addition, DC will miss Jaime Moreno, who took a nasty ankle knock vs. Real, and Nick Rimando. Dallas will be without Ronnie O’Brien, LA without Landon Donovan, and SJ, Ricardo Clark.