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


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


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:

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.

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.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Reserves Beat Chivas, 2-1

At least some Metro team can beat expansion Chivas USA. The mini-Metro reserves got goals from non-roster invitee Jarrod Laventure and sub and first-teamer Mike Magee to come from behind in a 2-1 MLS Reserve League win yesterday. The win puts the reserves within three points of the top of the table with four matches to play. Could the Metros' first title come from the second teamers? Why not? Stay tuned.

Lovin’ El Lobo

Yes, the Metros defense is hurting, big time. Yes, Chivas USA just added a host of players from its Mexican big brother (sister?) club, including Mexican international Paco Palencia, but still, one would have hoped that the teammates of Metro Honduran superstar and MLS Player of the Week Amado “El Lobo” Guevara would have recognized the importance of last Sunday’s clash at the Swamp. Instead, Guevara single-handedly kept the Metros alive in the Eastern Conference playoff chase with a hat trick that included an injury-time, curling goalazo-azo-azo from twenty yards out to salvage a point in a 3-3 draw.

The Metros took the field without defensive stalwarts Chris Leitch (suspended), Jeff Agoos and Carlos Mendes (injured), and were victimized twice by the Goats’ Palencia for two goals in a five-minute span in the first half, and by Juan Pablo Garcia after halftime. Guevara scored twice on penalty kicks before curling his highlight-reel goal into the top right corner off a restart pass from Youri Djorkaeff with only seconds remaining.

The draw left the Metros on the outside looking in, five points behind DC United, who have one game at hand.

The Eastern Conf looks like this:
Team, Pts, GD, Matches left (Home/Away), Most Possible Points
1. New England 42, +15, (5/4), 69
2. Kansas City 41, +12, (5/3), 65
3. Chicago 39, 0, (2/5), 60
4. DC United 38, +12, (4/5), 65
MetroStars 33, +3, (3/5), 57

I’ve left off sixth-place Columbus. Thankfully, the Metro are off until Sept. 3rd, and hopefully can get completely healthy. If the Metro wants in, they’re going to have to earn it, as they have home-and-homes with KC, NE, and DC, a match at Chicago and a return match at Chivas to end the regular season. The Fire looks like the easiest to catch, as Chicago plays a majority of matches on the road, including two California road trips (LA and SJ).

Today at 3:30 ET, the MLS Select XI, including Guevara and Djorkaeff take on Real Madrid on FSC. My TiVo is ready to go. Enjoy.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Mixed Messages

It’s tough to take MLS seriously when it sends it's star players across the pond for a “meaningless” exhibition match in the middle of the playoff race and the US Open Cup. Yet, thanks to the MLS bigwigs, players such as Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, and Ronnie O’Brien are jetting to Madrid for Tuesday’s Trofeo Santiago Bernabeu match vs. Real Madrid as the “MLS Select XI.” Six MLS teams are playing in the US Open Cup quarterfinals the following night and must make due without their big guns, which is a huge slap in the face to the USSF and the history of the cup, which the players take very seriously. I can only hope that there’s a payday in the match for MLS/SUM, ‘cause otherwise this trip makes no sense. Soccernet’s Ives Galarcep chimes in here with a similar stance.

Will the biggest US home match this year be televised on English language TV? ESPN isn’t so sure. The September 3rd US-Mexico WCQ match was scheduled to air on ESPN Classic of all places, due to college football commitments at the mouse network(s). SI’s Grant Wahl doesn’t see the match on ESPN’s program guide. And they say the boys in Bristol don’t care about soccer…

Unrelated, but Nike is getting ready to promote the Nats with a soon-to-be-released commercial. Click here to see the foundation of a Nike site just for the Yanks. Clint, don't drive angry.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Taking Care of Business

McBride Hugs It Out (Reuters)
Originally uploaded by mfishkin.
World Cup qualifying, it is said, is business, not art. That was definitely the case in East Hartford, CT, last night, as the US Men’s National Team took care of business in an ugly 1-0 victory over Trinidad and Tobago that pushes the Yanks ever closer to a 2006 World Cup bid. Attendance was just over twenty-five thousand as Rentschler Field, home of UConn football, hosted the USMNT for the first time.

Veteran forward Brian McBride knocked in a Bobby Convey cross on the US’ first quality chance, just 92 seconds into the match to account for the scoring. The US outshot the outmatched Soca Warriors 18-1, but clearly lost focus around the Trinidad net.

The Yanks were robbed on several calls by Mexican referee Marco Rodriguez, including calling back a clear goal by substitute Taylor Twellman in the 86th minute. Two minutes later, Rodriguez gave Convey his second yellow card of the match, not only sending him to the showers early, but also suspending him for the next qualifier, September 3rd vs. Mexico at a sold-out Columbus Crew Stadium. The US can formally wrap up qualification with a win or tie vs. the Yanks’ chief rival. Press reports on the match include:, NYTimes, USA Today, Yahoo, MLSNET, NY Daily News.

Standings after six of ten matches:
Team, Pts, Goal Differential
1. Mexico 16, +8
2. USA 15, +9
3. Guatemala 7, 0
4. Costa Rica 7, -4
5. Trinidad 4, -6
6. Panama 2, -7

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Captain America is Ready To Go

Captain Claudio Reyna (Getty)
Originally uploaded by mfishkin.

Tonight, the US picks up the chase for the 2006 World Cup in East Hartford, CT, when the Yanks take on Trinidad (8pm, espn2) in the sixth of ten final-round qualifying matches in the CONCACAF region. After 5 matches, the US is sitting pretty in 2nd place, five points ahead of 3rd place Costa Rica. The top three teams qualify directly for Germany 2006, while the 4th place finisher meets an Asian team for another slot.

The US has been buoyed by the return of captain Claudio Reyna, who has sat out most of the round recovering from injuries suffered after a punishing EPL season at his club, Manchester City. The US will be missing midfielder DaMarcus Beasley (PSV Eindhoven), who took a knock in practice, but still are easily considered favorites in tonight’s match. Other matches in the region tonight include Mexico vs. Costa Rica, and Guatemala hosting Panama. With a win, the US can clinch at worst 4th place in the group, but must wait until the next match, September 3rd vs. Mexico in Columbus, OH, to mathematically nail down a trip to Germany next summer.

Press on today’s match includes John Eligon’s piece on Reyna in the New York Times, a profile of up and coming US defender Oguchi Oneywu at USA Today, and match previews at the Hartford Courant and

Current Standings:
Team, Pts, GD:
Mexico 13, +6
USA 12, +8
Costa Rica 7, -2
Guatemala 4, -1
Trinidad 4, -5
Panama 2, -6

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Le Vieux Grenouille

The old frog, Youri Djorkaeff, scored both goals in the MetroStars 2-2 road draw at FC Dallas’ new Pizza Hut Park in Frisco, TX. Djorkaeff’s second tally came on a looping shot from 25 yards out to beat Dallas keeper Jeff Cassar and bank in off the right post. The world cup champion was named MLS player of the week for his efforts. The draw, combined with road wins by Kansas City and DC United left the Metros in fifth place in the Eastern Conference, three points out of a playoff spot with 11 matches left to play. Metro starts its stretch run tonight in DC at 7:30pm on MSG. United will be without Freddy Adu, who suffered a sprained MCL at Chicago on Saturday. The Metros’ remaining schedule is almost exclusively within the East, though the team gets a break with two matches against league bottom-feeder Chivas USA. With all players returning to health, and without the distraction of the US Open Cup, the Metros should make the playoffs for the third straight season. In the last two seasons, the Metros have lost in the conference semifinals. The Metros' remaining schedule:
WED AUG 10 @ DC United
SUN AUG 14 vs. Columbus
SUN AUG 21 vs. Chivas USA
SAT SEP 3 vs. Kansas City
SAT SEP 10 @ Kansas City
SAT SEP 17 vs. New England
SAT SEP 24 @ New England
SAT OCT 1 vs. DC United
WED OCT 5 @ Chicago
SAT OCT 8 @ DC United
SUN OCT 16 @ Chivas USA

Friday, August 05, 2005

Cup Up-date

Before their great stadium news yesterday, the MetroStars were drubbed by homestanding Rochester Rhinos 3-1 in the fourth round of the US Open Cup on Wednesday. At least Metro wasn’t the only MLS club to be beaten by a lower-division opponent. The Minnesota Thunder got four goals from Liberian Melvin Tarley to beat the Colorado Rapids 4-1 in St. Paul. Also of note, Kansas City ended the Des Moines Menace’s dream run with a 6-1 thrashing. In other matches, Chicago beat the Revs in extra time, 3-2, DC United handled USL 1 club Richmond Kickers 3-1, San Jose took second division Portland Timbers 2-0, the LA Galaxy remained undefeated against crosstown rival Chivas USA 5-2, and FC Dallas got two extra-time goals to beat Columbus 3-1.

The quarterfinals, with two second-division clubs still alive, will be held on August 24th, and set up like this:
San Jose v LA Galaxy
Kansas City v Minnesota (II)
Rochester (II) v Chicago Fire
DC United v FC Dallas

Thursday, August 04, 2005

It’s Really Happening!

Five years ago, former Metro GM Nick Sakiewicz set out to build a soccer-specific stadium for the MetroStars in Harrison, NJ. The stadium would be built as part of a development that included retail, restaurants, housing, office space, and parking on the banks of the Passaic River, adjacent to a PATH station connection to/from Manhattan.

Today, after nearly eighteen hundred days of delays, deals that fell apart, and broken promises, the MetroStars, NJ Governor Codey, and other local, state, and national officials announced that the project will become reality. Ground will be broken on the MetroStars stadium this fall, with a June 2007 projected opening.

In recent days, AEG, the parent company of the MetroStars that also owns the Chicago Fire, LA Galaxy, and San Jose Earthquakes, agreed to fund the stadium without any public support of the project. Paraphrasing AEG Entertainment President Tim Lieweke, “We realize that New York is too important a market to have a team without a top flight facility. We believe the area deserves a top-flight home for a top-flight team." Metro fan Jay Goppingen attended the press conference, held in 95 degree heat at the Harrison Public Library. His photos from the site can be found here.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

And now, Back to the Action

After a horde of European clubs came to our shores in July, MLS clubs will return to focus on the league and the US Open Cup this week, while another soccer-specific stadium opens its doors this Saturday.

First, a recap of last week’s action. MLS sides did pretty well against European clubs, as Chicago dropped a 3-1 decision to AC Milan at Solider Field. DC United’s Bobby Boswell gave the defending champs a first-half lead against Chelsea, but fell 2-1. The MLS All-Stars sent a packed Columbus Crew Stadium home happy after dismantling EPL mid-flight squad Fulham by a 4-1 score. The Revs’ Taylor Twellman, FC Dallas’ Ronnie O’Brien, and Colorado’s Jeff Cunningham (2 goals) scored for MLS.

Though many snobs were decrying that the matches were “meaningless friendlies,” short of December’s World Club Championship (Costa Rica’s Saprissa is the CONCACAF entrant) in Japan, there’s really no “meaningful” competition that club teams from Europe and North America can take part in together. Critics have really got to get a grip.

The fourth round of the US Open Cup will be played tomorrow night with eight matches, and the MetroStars, who take on USL-1 front runner Rochester in upstate New York, are hoping to avoid a repeat of last year’s uninspired 1-0 upset loss to Charleston. Mike Magee, interviewed on, says the Metros will be ready.

Though the amenities won’t all be in place, FC Dallas’ spanking new Pizza Hut Park opens this Saturday night with the Metros the opponent. When the paint is completely dry, the Frisco, TX stadium will hold 21,000. With parking lots yet to be finished, the Hoops will host about 15,000 fans for the inaugural match.

A check of its webcam page shows how nicely Chicago’s stadium in Bridgeview, IL is coming along. MLS’ next stadium could be ready for opening day in 2006. As for the Metros’ Harrison, NJ project? We’re coming up on FIVE FULL YEARS since the project was introduced, and nary a shovel has hit the dirt. Stay tuned.