Thursday, March 29, 2007

Show us your....WHAT?

Allen Hopkins at ESPN Soccernet is reporting that former Metro Clint Mathis is heading back to the swamp to be the Red Bulls' striker of the, um, what? Future? Mathis, who's fat and 30, has played with LA, the Metro, RSL, and Colorado is his eight-year MLS career. He's scored 52 goals in 182 appearances, though last year he hit the net two whole times in 25 appearances for the Rapids.

While Red Bull's Jeff "I Scored in the World Cup... for Portugal" Agoos has told the media that the club has been "searching the world" for a striker, the notion that Cletus is the answer up top with Jozy Altidore is laughable. Mathis' best years in MLS were spent with the Metros from 2000-2003, when he scored 33 goals in 67 appearances, including his league record 5-goal match vs. Dallas on August 26, 2000. With Mathis' help, the 2000 Metros won their only playoff series and came up a single goal short reaching of the MLS Cup. Mathis, whose memorable goal vs. South Korea at World Cup 2002 was clearly the pinnacle of his career, has always been a bit of a head case, and unless Bruce Arena can summon the Mathis of that long-ago summer, Cletus' new stint in New York will be met with hoots of derision from the NY fans and cheers of glee from Red Bull rivals.

The proof will be in the pudding, but giving Colorado anything for Mathis (save a case of Coors Light) may turn out to be a horrible decision for the RBFO. Wow. Just wow.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Things You Love About...

Big, big ups to the creative guys at ESPN for new their MLS promotional spots, which can be seen here. Soccer snobs have long thumbed their collective noses at MLS, and the Boys of Bristol have wisely decided to focus their MLS message to the more casual sports fan. The "Things You Love About..." campaign rightfully supports the argument that MLS soccer, just like the big American three sports, offers great examples of what all sports fans want to see: Power, defense, pressure, contact, accuracy, teamwork, quickness, athleticism, and desire. By telling the viewer that "you're a fan, you just don't know it yet," ESPN is putting MLS in a smart, positive light. The messages are compelling invitations to experience MLS for the first time. Hopefully, ESPN viewers will take the bait. Good show.

Monday, March 26, 2007

US 3-1 ECU Good/Bad/Ugly

The US is a perfect three for three under Bob Bradley after Landon Donovan led the Yanks to a 3-1 win over '06 World Cup participant Ecuador at the New Sombrero in Tampa on Sunday. Donovan scored three different ways against Ecuador... off of a poor clearance in the first minute... on a 40-yard breakaway in the 66th... and a 20-yd rocket off a DMB feed two minutes later. Here's a quick review of the match, Eastwood style.

The aforementioned Donovan: Took hold of the US effort and willed his team to win. For a guy that's told US Soccer his focus this year is on his club team, he's giving the Nats everything he's got. Donovan has tied Brian McBride for 2nd all-time on the US scoring list with 30 tallies, just four behind Eric Wynalda.

Michael Bradley: Entered at halftime and did a great job managing the US attack, which was scattered in the game's first half. His slow, steady possession helped frustrate the speedy Ecuadorians, who wilted after Donovan's two second-half goals.

Brian Ching: Got kicked in the nose in the first half, but got himself right back on the field and had a chance or two at goal before being subbed out in the 73rd. A real warrior.

Benny Feilhaber: Went 90 minutes at d-mid in his first US start. Tons of upside potential. Worked great with Bradley.

The Fed: Ecuador was a great scheduling choice. They're a good South American squad that gave the young (and not-so-young) Nats fits in the first half. Good speed and sharp passing made them a strong test for the US as they get ready for Gold Cup and Copa America.


The US D-Wings: Cherundolo and Bocanegra were torched frequently by the young and speedy Ecuadorians. True, the temperature on the field (120 degrees) was a bit warmer than Germany and England, but our d-wings did a lot of chasing, especially on Felipe Caicedo's goal. Caicedo, who's only 21, had a terrific match for the South Americans.


DaMarcus Beasley: He's still working his way back into shape, and had a great feed to LD for the US' third goal, but Beaz had a few howlers in the match. It's been a year since he played his best, and while he's all but inked-in for WC 2010, here's to hoping he gets his groove back.

Dave O'Brien: Got smacked-down by Arena for comparing Oguchi Oneywu to an NFL Linebacker. Went off on a ramble out how the Yankees' spring training site was nearby. Continually noted the score and time, although that info is constantly available to viewers on the screen. As Run-DMC once noted... "You talk too much... home boy you NEVER shut up!"

By the way, the first person who can explain what Wynalda was talking about re: MLS' "Game First" effort wins a prize. Looking forward to more roster experiments this Wednesday vs. Guatemala at the Deep Dish in Frisco.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Fashion Show

It was a big week in MLS, even without any meaningful games going on. There was an upbeat article on the front page of the marketplace section in today's Wall Street Journal, and the league's second and third sponsorship deals were announced, with an interesting competitive backstory included.

As you may know, Chivas USA owner Jorge Vergara is also the director of Omnilife, a Mexico-based nutrition products and supplements company. Once of Omnilife's biggest competitors is Torrance, CA-based Herbalife. Chivas USA shares the Home Depot Center with... the LA Galaxy. As you can see, Herbalife is sponsoring the Galaxy kit. A nice story, and a nice $4 million (approx.) annual check to LA for the sponsorship. The Herbalife deal almost defrays Beckham's annual salary. Almost.

As for Club Canada, Toronto stadium sponsor BMO has stepped up to sponsor the Toronto FC kit for the club's first season. No word on the dollars behind the deal, but with TFC reaching its season ticket cap of 14,000, hopefully the club was able to pry additional dollars from BMO, the Bank of Montreal. Sponsoring Toronto FC. Weird.

The US will be wearing a new, blue pajama top (I agree, Bruce) during their matches against Ecuador this Sunday (noon et, ESPN2 and Galavision) and Guatemala on Wednesday (9pm ET, ESPN2 and Galavision). Meh. The shirt really looks like it was picked off the sale rack at Target. Come on, Nike, you can do better than that.

BTW, Northern NJ-based US fans, you're invited to join me and 25 other Garden Staters at the Sportz Bar in East Hanover on Route 10 West on Sunday to watch the US-Ecuador match. It's a trial run for those who can't escape to the city to watch at Stout Pub. Drop me a email if you'd like to come, or just come on by.

Thanks for Digging

Big Ups to D at the DCenters for his investigation into exactly what it takes MLS to update its teams' online rosters on MLSNet. I'm currently in the online media world myself, and I feel their pain, but yeesh.

Red Bull-a-Rama

Dan R and the gang at MetroFanatic always do a fantastic job bringing the fanatics closer to the players at Red Bull Media Day, and this week was no exception. Check out short and sweet interviews with Reyna, Wattereus, Parker, Stammler, Altidore, Laventure, Kovalenko, Wynne, Vide, Wolyniec, and Regan. No one does it better. Thanks, guys.

Watch Party: FIFA DATE

Here's what's on the tube, while you're dodging NCAA Hoops (all times et):

8:30am: INTL: England U-21-Italy U-21, FSC
11:00am: INTL: Brazil-Chile, FSC
2:00pm: EURO: Spain-Denmark, TELEM
2:30pm: EURO: Estonia-Russia, FSC
4:30pm: EURO: Norway-Bosnia, FSC
7:00pm: MEX: Atlante-UNAM, GALA
7:15pm: COL: Bucramanga-Dep. Cali, GOL
9:00pm: MEX: Chivas-Morelia, TELEF
11:00pm: MEX: Necaxa-Club America, TELEF

1am: MEX: Monterrey-San Luis, GALA
Noon: INTL: USA-Ecuador, ESPN2, GALA
2pm: MEX: Toluca-Chiapas, UNI
3:00pm: ARG: San Lorenzo-Independiente, FSC
3:30pm: INTL: Mexico-Paraguay, TELEM
5:30pm: ELS: San Salvador-ALianza, GOL
6:00pm: JAM: Jamaican Cup Semifinal 1, FSC
7:30pm: COL: America Cali-Cucuta, GOL
8:30pm: JAM: Jamaican Cup Semifinal 2, FSC
9:30pm: CLUB: Marathon (HON)-Alajuelense (CRC), GOL

Friday, March 16, 2007

The New New World

There were ripplings from Chicago to DC to Houston yesterday across the US soccer scene, ripplings that signaled change in soccer's new world.

In Chicago, US Soccer announced its 24-man roster for upcoming friendlies against Ecuador (March 25, Tampa) and Guatemala (March 28, Frisco). Unlike Bob Bradley's January US camp, the roster includes young Americans that have plying their trade abroad, like former U20s Benny Feilhaber (Hamburg II, GER), Frankie Simek (West Ham, ENG), Michael Bradley (Heeerenveen, NED) as well as Jay Demerit (Watford, ENG), who left Green Bay, Wisconsin for the dream of the EPL, and reached it. Euro stalwarts Beasley, Dempsey, Howard and Onyewu will be in camp, as well as an old guy with the initials KK that I thought had retired. Throw in some MLS'ers old (Conrad) and young (Clark, Cooper), and you've got the new US team: a little youth, a little experience, and a lot of potential for success. Results against Ecuador and Guatemala or not, simply having this group in camp together will pay dividends this summer in the Gold Cup and Copa America.

In Houston, the MLS Cup champs survived an early barrage against Mexican powerhouse Pachuca, then used a second-half surge (Ching, Wondolowski) to win 2-0 in the first leg of the clubs' Concacaf Champions' Cup semifinal matchup. The second goal, scored in the 83rd minute, gave the Dynamo a huge boost heading south of the border for the return leg on April 5th. I'm sure there were many who expected the MLS side to get swamped by the Tuzos, but remember that Houston (nee San Jose) is a championship squad that has been playing together, and winning, for many years. The Dynamo will be even fitter in three weeks, so here's to hoping that they can shut the door and move on the finals.

In DC, Chivas Guadalajara took a 1-0 lead in the second half of their semifinal opener with DC United on a header by Mexican national-teamer Omar Bravo. Chivas was able to penetrate the DC defense frequently on the sloppy field, but wonder acquisition Emilio scored his fourth goal of the competition in injury time off a corner kick to give DC the 1-1 home draw. Chivas will certainly be favored to beat DC at Estadio Jalisco on April 3rd, and based on last night's play, they probably won't disappoint the home crowd.

Still, two MLS vs. MEX club matches without a loss is a significant achievement. A series win over a Mexican opponent in this competition hasn't happened since the KC Wizards beat Santos Laguna in the 2002 quarterfinals, and would signal a new day in the MLS/FMF rivalry.

Over the next few weeks, US soccer may certainly prove to be a new, new world.