Sunday, July 30, 2006

Hank Evans...

The Kin of Fish will be away for a few weeks. Having a beautiful baby girl will do that to a guy.

Friday, July 21, 2006

All Aboard the Red Bull Train

Two wins in a row and there's some real momentum around the Red Bulls heading into Saturday's home match vs. The Wiz, under new head coach (and former Metro) Brian Bliss. With a win and help, New York can solidify their renaissance under interim head coach Richie Williams. Here's a preview...

The Kansas City forwards vs. The Red Bulls' back line:
Eddie Johnson and Josh Wolff vs. Jeff Parke, Carlos Mendes, Marvell Wynne and Seth Stammler (and Jon Conway). KC's two national-team forwards should be melding together, though the two each have only two goals in their nine MLS games to date this season. Even with the World Cup assignment, defender Jose Burciaga should be the leading scorer on this club. The Red Bulls have posted back to back shutouts for the first time in three years, albeit against the league's bottom feeders. It's hard to imagine a shutout against such talented strikers, but NY has the hot hand here, even moreso if Todd Dunivant gets on the field. Advantage: New York

New York's attackers vs. The Wizards defense:
Jean Philippe Peguero and Edson Buddle vs. Tyson Wahl, Nick Garcia, Jimmy Conrad, and Jose Burciaga (and Bo Oshoniyi). The JPP scoring drought is now seven games long. Perhaps opposing defenses are keying on him. Buddle had a beautiful diagonal pass to set up NY's first goal on Wednesday in Columbus, but neither NY striker is in stellar form right now. The Wizards have a veteran defense anchored by World Cup vet Jimmy Conrad, though KC has let in 26 goals in 18 games, 2nd worst in the league. Advantage: Push

The Midfielders:
New York's Danny O'Rourke, Chris Henderson, Amado Guevara, and Mike Magee vs. Kansas City's Alex Zotinca, Sasha Victorine, Kerry Zavagnin, and Lance Watson. Yes, Chris Henderson is old. Yes, he did score a fantastic goal from a crazy angle in Columbus on Wednesday. No, he can't seem to serve crosses of any quality whatsoever. Amado continues to heat up like Vinny(The Microwave) Johnson. For KC's veteran midfield, the coaching change may be wake-up call to get them going. I don't think so. Advantage: New York

The Coaches:
Richie Williams vs. Brian Bliss. ABMOD has his side believing they can win. Bliss will be trying to ignite a moribund team that has only one win in its last seven games... in the Open Cup vs. the not-so-terrifying Des Moines Menace of the PDL. Advantage: New York

NY is gunning for its first three-game winning streak this season. Will the new optimism around the team translate to fans in the stands? KC should get a boost from its new head coach, but Red Bulls may just be for real. Advantage: New York.

The Prediction: A blissful night in the swamp eludes KC. New York wins 2-1.

Television Man
Here's the best soccah on the tube this weekend (all times et)...

Saturday, July 22
4:00pm: MLS: Colorado-Los Angeles, ESPN2
5:00pm: BRA: Fluminense-Sao Caetano, GOL
7:30pm: MLS: New York-Kansas City, FSNY, HDNet, DK
8:00pm: COL: Independiente Santa Fe-Chico, GOL
8:30pm: MLS: Chicago-DC United, CSN, DK
8:30pm: MLS: Houston-New England, FSH, WLVI, DK
10:00pm: MLS: Real Salt Lake-FC Dallas, FSSW, DK

Sunday, July 23
1:00pm: ECU: Deportivo Quito-LDU, GOL
3:00pm: BRA: Ponte Preta, Sao Paulo, GOL
7:00pm: COL: America-Bucaramanga, GOL

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Arena Football, Game One

Ok, so Bruce Arena will watch tonight’s Red Bulls-Crew match on a very expensive flat-screen TV somewhere in NYC or Virginia. Still, it’s not wrong to say that the Arena era begins this evening in Cow-town. Here’s a brief preview.

The Columbus forwards vs. The Red Bulls’ back line:
Kei Kamara, Jacob Thomas, and Eddie Gaven vs. Jeff Parke, Carlos Mendes, Marvell Wynne and Seth Stammler (and Jon Conway). Kamara, the Crew’s scoring leader with three goals, has had a strong rookie season. Thomas is spending his first season in MLS after eight years in the lower German leagues. Gaven (I’d imagine) wants to play well vs. his former club. The NY defense posted a shutout last time out against a poor Colorado team. Look for Conway to have another good performance. Advantage: New York

New York’s attackers vs. The Crew’s defense:
Jean Philippe Peguero and Edson Buddle vs. Ritchie Kotschau, Chad Marshall, and Chris Leitch (and Noah Palmer). After a torrid start to his Red Bull tenure, JPP is suddenly immune to goal scoring, having failed to hit the net in his last six matches. Buddle continues to be a mild disappointment. For the Crew, Kotschau is in his 43rd season in the league, Marshall’s a real USMNT prospect down the road, and Leitch will do his pit bull routine all night. Palmer has had a solid 1.22 GAA. Advantage: Push

The Midfielders:
New York’s Danny O’Rourke, Chris Henderson, Amado Guevara, and Mike Magee vs. Columbus’ Ezra Hendrickson, Leonard Bisaku, Jose Retiz, and Tim Ward. I have never heard of Bisaku or Retiz, but they did turn out a positive effort against DC over the weekend. As for the Red Bull boys, Magee has come on over the last few weeks, and while Youri is still AWOL, Amado gets to run the show like the old days. Advantage: New York

The Coaches:
Sigi Schmid vs. Richie Williams. It’s got to be a little strange for ABMOD tonight, but he certainly wants to build a little momentum ahead of the future Arena era. Sigi is building for the future, and should have his young charges ready to go. Experience points push the ad into his column. Advantage: Columbus

The Red Bulls will all be putting their best foot forward for their future coach, watching from 800 miles away. For the first time in months, they won’t be wondering if their head coach will be sticking around. He will be. He’ll just be demoted. Advantage: New York.

The Prediction:
Optimism reigns! New York wins 2-0.

That’s Amore!

First Italy wins the World Cup, then the Red Bulls hire an Italian coach. In between, the Italian karma was working big time in Santa Barbara, CA, last Wednesday, when amateur Dallas side Roma FC took the biggest scalp in US Open Cup history, knocking off Chivas USA of MLS in pks after a scoreless draw. While Roma (the club) is overjoyed, Chivas coach Bob Bradley has got to have big-time egg on his face. While the USOC suffers from a lack of attention among US soccer fans, the loss is a huge smack in the face of MLS… which is what makes the Cup such a great tournament. Roma is back in LA to face the Galaxy in the fourth round on August 1st.

USOC Third Round Results on July 12th:
Michigan Bucks (IV) 1:4 Columbus Crew (I)
Wilmington Hammerheads (III) 2:1 Atlanta Silverbacks (II)
Chivas USA (I) 0:0 (4-2 pks) Dallas Roma FC (Amateur)
Carolina Dynamo (IV) 3:2 Seattle Sounders (II)
Kansas City Wizards (I) 2:1 Des Moines Menace (IV)
Rochester Rhinos (II) 5:1 New Hampshire Phantoms (III)
Real Salt Lake (I) 2:1 Virginia Beach Mariners (II)
Charleston Battery (I) 3:1 Portland Timbers (I)

USOC Fourth Round Matches on August 1st-2nd:
DC United – Columbus
LA Galaxy-Roma FC (Amateur)
Wilmington Hammerheads (III)-New York
Rochester Rhinos (II)-New England
Houston-Carolina Dynamo (IV)… Go, um, Dynamo!
Chicago-Kansas City
Real Salt Lake-Colorado
Portland (II)-FC Dallas

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

"I Want to Work for Red Bull"

I’ve mentioned in the past that MLS is the fan- friendiest league in the country. Today "friendly" was taken to the next level, as yours truly got to ask former US head coach and current Red Bull “Sporting Director” a number of questions during his welcome press conference at Mr. Cindy Crawford’s swanky Stone Rose Lounge at NYC’s glitzy Time Warner Center.

Bruce Arena showed up 45 minutes late to his own party, allowing the city’s soccer media (including Michael Lewis, Jack Bell, Brian Lewis, Ives Galarcep, Jane Havsy, Steve Cangelosi, and Paul Gardner) and a few hard-core fans the opportunity to enjoy breathtaking views of steamy Columbus Circle and Central Park on the hottest day of the summer. Gorgeous waitresses handed out Kobe beef skewers, spicy tuna rolls, mushroom crostini, etc. etc. while we waited… and waited. Had the Metros/Red Bulls karma thrown Arena under a bus on the way to his press conference? We wondered.

Finally, Arena the Bruce was there along with Red Bull Managing Director Marc deGrandpre, who looked like he wasn’t super comfortable in the relative glare of the media.

Nuggets we learned:

Arena was “fairly certain” he didn’t want to come back to MLS after his US tenure, but Red Bulls advances, which started about 30 days ago (which would be during the US’ World Cup run) were “very intriguing.” The team and the coach came to terms about 2 weeks ago.

Arena didn’t think a team the likes that Red Bull is planning “could be built” within MLS, but the Austrian drink makers have been able to convince him of their "vision."

Red Bull fans shouldn’t expect many on-field changes this season. “There’s only so much we can do this year," said Arena. “We’re not in a position to acquire [players] through the transfer window,” he added, and said that changes would “most likely will be made in the offseason.” Arena noted that the club plans to have a strong team in place for the 2008 Harrison Stadium opening.

Arena did mention a number of current Red Bulls that he was impressed with, including Guevara (“one of the top midfielders in the league”), Dunivant, Wynne, Mendes, O’Rourke (“a ton of potential”), Peguero, Buddle, and Stammler. As for missing midfielder Youri Djorkaeff, Arena noted that “the old regime” had the relationship with the French World Cup champion, so Djorkaeff’s future with the club may be in doubt.

Arena knows better than anyone just how good an MLS side can be, though he noted that “this isn’t the Cosmos. This is the league where Americans play.” He was optimistic about the future, however. “Ten years down the road," he added, "this league looks different.”

Current assistant coach Richie Williams and goalkeeping coach Des McAleenan will be staying on with the Red Bulls, and Arena will be bringing on another assistant coach, a fitness director, a “technical director,” and possibly another coach.

Arena’s first game behind the bench will be the August 12th tilt vs. European champion Barcelona, and he’ll be relaxing & moving his team from Virginia to the NY area before getting with the team on the practice field by August 7th.

deGrandpre noted that Arena will have input on the locker rooms and training facilities at the widely rumored (and delayed) Harrison Stadium project. deGrandpre said that final designs were “a few weeks away," which caused some audible eye-rolls in the crowd, and added that 100% of the seats in the stadium designs would be covered. A heated field, which would allow the club to play through the winter, was also a possibility. The Managing Director told the crowd that the stadium, when built, would be the premier [soccer] training facility in the US. Mmm-hmm.

While it was a positive start for Arena is New York, it’s obvious that the rest of this season is not to be taken too seriously by team management. With the Red Bulls only three points out of a playoff spot, avoiding DC United in round one should be the focus of this club down the stretch. Hopefully Arena’s signing will help sell some tickets & generate some buzz around a franchise that has consistently underperformed.

And away we go. Again.