Monday, December 01, 2008

Tonight tonight , ESC

A great video recap of an unbelievable late-season run. Is it 2009 yet?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

What I Learned At the Supporters Summit

50 or so supporters attended this morning's Supporters Summit at the Home Depot Center.

It's my first time at the HDC, and the facility is absolutely gorgeous.

Fans from LA, Chivas, San Jose, Houston, Phoenix (!), Columbus, DC and New York attended a sometimes lively discussion with Don Garber and deputy comisssioner Ivan Gadzidis. Greg Lalas and Shep Messing also took part, but had little to say after the opening remarks.


The supplement that got Conway & Parke the 10-match suspensions? "Jungle Warfare." I kid you not. Garber said the two should have brought the J.W. to the RBNY trainers for testing before taking it. He made the case sound simple. It is.

Garber played a bit to the crowd noting that the league must build around fans that are the most passionate. He said he'd like to see 5,000 fans attend the summit in the future.

He deftly parried with an LA supporter that claimed that the league didn't listen to hardcore fans. The Don noted that the listening and putting all suggestions into practice were two different things.

Garber noted the challenge of turning the final into a two-legged affair, saying the league is seeking that "winning moment" that would make "SportsCenter," a moment all would remember. If the visitng team won the first match 3-0, the second leg would be a bore, which is not what the league is looking for.

Gadzidis gave a lengthy, lengthy response to questions about officiating, noting that all MLS matches are reviewed by both the league and US Soccer, and that folks complain about referreeing all over the world.

Jack Bell's Goal blog is the NY Times' most popular sports blog.

As for the effect of bloggers on the league, MLS employs a staffer whose entire function is to trawl BigSoccer and top soccer blogs for what the fans are saying about the league. If they read this..."Hi, League Office!"

Behold the 2009 Hexagonal Schedule

For the US, the final round of qualify for WC 2010 starts at home vs. Mexico, and finishes at home vs. Costa Rica. The Yanks alternate home and away matches until games 8 and 9, which will both be on the road, at Trinidad and at Honduras Here's the entire Hexagonal schedule:

Wednesday 11 February
Costa Rica-Honduras
El Salvador-Trinidad and Tobago

Saturday 28 March
Mexico-Costa Rica
Trinidad and Tobago-Honduras
El Salvador-USA

Wednesday 1 April
Costa Rica-El Salvador
USA-Trinidad and Tobago

Wednesday 3 June
Costa Rica-USA

Saturday 6 June
Trinidad and Tobago-Costa Rica
El Salvador-Mexico

Wednesday 10 June
Mexico-Trinidad and Tobago
Honduras-El Salvador

Wednesday 12 August
Honduras-Costa Rica
Trinidad and Tobago-El Salvador

Saturday 5 September
Costa Rica-Mexico
Honduras-Trinidad and Tobago
USA-El Salvador

Wednesday 9 September
El Salvador-Costa Rica
Trinidad and Tobago-USA

Saturday 10 October (*)
Costa Rica-Trinidad and Tobago
Mexico-El Salvador

Wednesday 14 October (*)
USA-Costa Rica
Trinidad and Tobago-Mexico
El Salvador-Honduras

* - simlutaneous kickoff

The Confederations Cup schedule will be released shortly.

Friday, November 21, 2008

MLS Doesn't Get It

Hello from American Airlines Flight 21 from New York to LA. That's right, I'm on the internet, on a plane. Hooray for gogo inflight internet!

I've been following Don Garber's MLS State of the League address via Twitter from MLS Rumors and American Soccer News (and MLS Insider) which is pretty cool, but I haven't loved everything I've heard.

A summary:

-30-match season for 2009, each of the 15 teams play the others home and away, with 2 extra matches... I assume "rivalry" matches
-Seattle Sounders FC has sold 18,000 season tickets...Wow!
-The two expansion teams for 2011 will be announced before the 2009 season begins, though Montreal has dropped out due to the global credit crunch. That leaves Atlanta, Miami, Portland, Ottawa, St. Louis, and Vancouver going for the two slots
-Teams 1-4 qualify for the Concacaf Champions Cup, 5-8 for Superliga
-The reserve division will be discontinued, with senior rosters increased, BUT,
-There will be no increase in the salary cap

Considering that two ownership groups are about to pump $80 million into the league coffers, the idea that the salary cap won't be increased is unbelievably short-sighted. More teams=more pressure to get better players into the league. Cutting developmental players (like Danny Cepero and his $12,900 salary) means that won't be able to afford teams more global talent, but instead will give MLS vets a well deserved raise ahead of the CBA expiration at the end of '09.

Oh, and one last thing:

The MLS Cup page has Seth Stammler, the NY midfielder that had season-ending surgery before the playoffsas a possible starter. Um, no.

Will try to post an MLS Cup Preview tomorrow.

From somewhere over Cleveland, have a good night!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

USMNT: 2008 in Stats

The USMNT closed out their 2008 schedule with a 2-0 World Cup Qualifying win over Guatemala at DSG Park outside Denver. The Yanks won on second-half goals from Kenny Cooper and Freddy Adu. Adu's first senior-team tally came on a sweet free kick.

The US finished the year with an impressive 9-3-2 mark, including a 7-1-0 record in World Cup Qualifying matches. The Yanks scored 30 goals across 11 of the their 14 matches (2.14 GPG), though was shut out three successive matches in the Spring: at England, at Spain, and vs. Argentina (a scoreless draw). Nearly half of the team's 30 goals came in two matches: the June 11th 8-0 win vs. Barbados to open Qualifying, and the October 11th 6-1 victory vs. Cuba. The US won by a 1-0 score three times, a 2-0 score twice, and a 3-0 score twice.

Goal scorers for the US in 2008:
4 goals: Brian Ching, Clint Dempsey
3 goals: Landon Donovan, Ogucji Onyewu
2 goals: Jozy Altidore, DeMarcus Beasley Carlos Bocanegra, Michael Bradley, Eddie Lewis
1 goal: Freddy Adu, Kenny Cooper, Charie Davies, Eddie Johnson, Eddie Robinson, and 1 own goal

On the other side of the ball, the Yanks conceded only 8 goals in 14 games (0.57 GAA), pitching 9 clean sheets. At one point in the year, the US pitched six consectutive shutouts, a team record. The US allowed 1 goal twice: at Spain on June 4th, and vs. Cuba on Oct. 11th. Our boys allowed 2 goals three times; the 2-2 draw vs. Mexico on Feb. 6th, the 0-2 loss at England on May 28th, and the 1-2 loss at Trinidad on Oct. 15th after the US had clinched passage to the Hexagonal.

Doing the Continental
In 2008, The MNT went 2-2 vs. UEFA teams, 0-0-1 vs. Conmebol (S. America), and 7-1-1 vs. CONCACAF nations.

Looking Ahead
In 2009, The US will face three major challenges:
First and foremost, the Yanks will play 10 qualifying matches in attempt to reach its sixth consecutive World Cup. The draw for the Hexagonal, or CONCACAF Final Round, will be held this Saturday in South Africa. The US will face Mexico, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, and Trinidad in the round.

In addition, the US visit South Africa for the FIFA Confederations Cup from June 14-28. In the 8-nation "mini World Cup," the Yanks may face Brazil, Iraq, Italy, Spain, New Zealand, as well as the hosts. The Confed Cup draw will also take place this Saturday.

Finally, the MNT will attempt to win its third straight CONCACAF Gold Cup, the continental championship, in July of '09, with sites yet to be announced.

Throw in a few warm-up friendlies, 2009 looks to be a fantastic year for US Soccer. Can't wait!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Father and Son for Photo of the Year

What do you know? A photo of yours truly and his boy has made the finals for U.S. Soccer's Fan Photo of the year!

Won't you be so kind as to give us a click, then click on the "Best Fan Photo" button. Vote for the guy with the "Fish" in his last name.

Much obliged!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Fan Video: RSL 0-1 NY

Video from Nevada Smith's on Saturday night, where 200+ raving lunatics (yours truly included) go nuts at the final whistle (1:45 in).

Sunday, November 16, 2008


Fifth in the East, Champs of the West, First in our Hearts!

The New York Red Bulls, behind a 28th minute goal from Dave van den Bergh, won the 2008 Western Conference Championship 1-0 at Real Salt Lake. RSL hit the post not once or twice, but three times in the match.

With the victory, New York travels to LA next Sunday to take on Columbus in the MLS Cup. The Red Bulls also qualify for the 2009-10 Concacaf Champions Cup.

What a night! What a run! Unbelievable!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Western Conference Final Preview: NY at RSL

New York's shocking 3-0 playoff win at Houston on Sunday was nothing short of miraculous.

Not only was Houston:
-The two-time defending league MLS champion
-and had never lost a home playoff game
-and had lost only once at home all season...

And not only had New York:
-suffered five straight playoff series defeats
-had won only once on the road this season
-was starting its backup keeper Danny Cepero (salary: $12,900).

But the Red Bulls, thanks to play of the MLS Player of the Week Dane Richards and that underpaid keeper, delivered the playoff surprise of the league's 13-year history.

Only one obstacle remains preventing New York from reaching the MLS Cup for the first time, and that's Real Salt Lake. The Dave Checketts-owned club is in its' first ever playoffs, and will host the Western Confernce final in its spanking new Rio Tinto Stadium Saturday night at 9:30et on FSC.

Which team will move on to face Columbus in the 2008 MLS Cup on the 23rd? Here's a line-by-line preview.

Recent Form
RSL, 40 pts from 30 matches, 3rd West, TWTWT
New York, 39 pts from 30 matches, 5th East, TWLTW

The Salt Lake forwards vs. the Red Bulls' defense:
Yura Movsisyan and Clint Mathis vs. Kevin Goldthwaite, Andrew Boyens, Diego Jimenez, and Chris Leitch (and Danny Cepero). Movsisyan, a 2006 first-round draft pick, has become a folk hero to the RSL faithful, after scoring late winners to get RSL into the playoffs on the season's final weekend, and late in the club's first playoff leg vs. Chivas. A tireless worker, the 6-foot striker is extremely dangerous. Mathis may not go the full 90, but backup F Robbie Findley scored six for RSL this season. While the four-man New York backline allowed only a single goal to Houston over 180 minutes, the story of the Red Bulls' defense is Cepero. Thrust onto the field after Jon Conway's substance suspension, the Penn grad was nothing short of remarkable in making five superlative saves in Sunday's win. His play to deny Brian Ching a walk-in goal by hurdling the Houston striker to get the loose ball was amazing. Advantage: Push

New York's attackers vs. the RSL defense:
Juan Pablo Angel and John Wolyniec vs. Jamison Olave, Nat Borchers, and Robbie Russell (and Nick Rimando). the idea that Angel would score vs. Houston was not a surprise. But Wolyniec with the dagger (and horrible Thriller dance)? That was a surprise. Fact is, since Jozy Altidore's departure, Woly, Mike Magee, and Mac Kandji have all had a shot up next to Angel, even if the role is to pull a defender or two away from the Colombian. What to make of the RSL defense? The team condeded 39 goals in 30 league games, putting RSL in the middle of the league in GA. Chivas scored two on the club in the first-round series. Olave hit the net twice this season. With some precision, the Red Bulls can shoot for the top corners, confounding the diminuative Rimando. Advantage: New York

The Midfields:
Dave van den Bergh, Sinisa Ubiparipovic, Luke Sassano, and Dane Richards vs. Dema Kovalenko, Kyle Beckerman, Javier Morales, and Will Johnson. The outside NY middies are among the class of the league, but the real (and Real) pressure will be felt on Ubiparipovic and Sassano, two bench players that confounded Houston's talented midfield over the past two matches. Kovalenko, despite the notion that he's a softie, is extremely dangerous, and Morales finished the regular season second in league assists (15) behind Columbus' Schelotto (19). Johnson has a Goal of the Year candidate (as does Cepero). Advantage: RSL

The Coaches:
Juan Carlos Osorio deserves all the credit for his club's dismantling of Houston. His pechant for tinkering worked to perfection (plus an outstanding performance by Cepero). Will JCO continue to keep his pricey summer acquisitions on the bench (where frankly they belong)? Jason Kreis has engineered a successful playoff run from his guys, who haven't lost in seven outings. Advantage: Push

How's this for a whopper? RSL has never beaten New York. The Red Bulls are 2-0-6 all-time vs. the Utahns. Short of that, there aren't too many other signs one way or another for these teams, one of which will be making their first MLS Cup appearance. A strong crowd is expected. Here's a telling stat, should the match go to penalites... Career MLS appearences: Rimando, RSL: 204. Cepero, NY: 4. RSL's playing at home, so... Advantage: RSL

New York does not have Jozy Altidore, Claudio Reyna, or Seth Stammler on its roster, but yet the club is one win away from it's first MLS Cup. RSL has it's brand new digs, but their fans really need a few more years of suffering before reaching the top. The title match has one original 1996 club taking part. There'll be two. Angel and Van den Bergh for NY, Andy Williams off the bench for RSL. New York WINS, 2-1.

Required reading before the match:

NY Times: Red Bulls Have Appeal in a Bearish Economy
NY Red Bulls Prepare for Next Turn in Unlikely Playoff Ride
NJ Herald News: These Fans are Running With the Bulls
American Soccer News: Can New York Do the Unthinkable?
Soccer America: Storybook Teams Clash in Splendid Setting
Salt Lake Tribune: RSL, NY Linked by Love, Hate
The Offside: How They Stack Up: RBNY@RSL A Load Of Bull

I'll be taking in the match at Nevada Smiths, 3rd Avenue between 11th/12th in Manhattan. Please join me. Hope to see you there.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Early Line on MLS Expansion '11

Today's announcement by MLS honcho Marc Abbott on the magnificent seven cities that presented expansion bids for the league's 2011 expansion round is notable for many reasons; the foreign interest in MLS, the three bids from North of the border, and one glaring omission: a bid by the Wilpon family, who were reportedly interested in adding a team and building a stadium in Queens, New York. Had the credit crunch bitten the Wilpons? We'll soon find out, but for now, feel bad for the Borough Boys, the startup supporters' group that won't have a club until 2013 at the earliest.

So which cities will be joining the ever-growing MLS? Here's a one man's opinion:

Atlanta: Financial support from the NFL Falcons' owner Arthur Blank notwithstanding, Hot'lanta is horrendous sports town. Fans may turn out to support the Falcons (if they're winning), but as the Braves, Hawks, and Thrashers can attest, the many transplants in the area provide little home field advantage. No.

Ottawa: Although there's an outdoor stadium in place, the Canadian capital is too small a market to support a club. Ottawa falls behind Montreal and Vancouver, despite nice Loonies from the Sens' owners. No.

St. Louis: Lack of a firm stadium plan and questionable financing allowed Phiily to leapfrog the great soccer town to land a club for 2010. Given the current financial situation, I'm unconvinced that MLS will go here. Perhaps the Wizards move across Missouri? No to expansion.

Vancouver: The USL Champion Whitecaps' ownership group has been unsuccessful in building a downtown, waterfront stadium here for a few years now. Despite adding Steve Nash to the ownership group, Vancouver remains a dark horse.

Portland: There's a great affinity among hard-core MLS fandom for the Timbers Army, the superlative supporters club of the USL-1 Timbers. Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson's son is the prime mover here, but Beaver Stadium, which the club current shares with the city's AAA baseball club, needs a load of work. Sentimental favorite here, but I think PDX is the last cut.

Montreal: A superb ownership team with the Impact-and stadium-owning Saptuo family in combination with the NHL Canadiens and Liverpool owning Gillett family. The team's spanking new stadium is ready for a build-out, and the current USL club is well supported. What's not to like? Welcome to MLS. Road trip!

Miami: A last-minute surprise, with FC Barcelona ready to front for a US club. Just as Dave Checketts shocked MLS with his Salt Lake franchise, Barca Miami will play at Florida International University's new stadium. The league gets a great partnership with the most storied of great clubs, entry back into the Southeast, and an MLS Cup near South Beach. How could this be a bad thing? Welcome to MLS, Miami!

My 2011 MLS Alignment:

DC United
New England
New York

FC Dallas
Kansas City
Los Angeles
Salt Lake
San Jose

Monday, October 06, 2008


It wasn't Chad Barrett's chip of Red Bulls' keeper Jon Conway that was the most embarrassing, and it wasn't the TFC 80-yard fast-break goal off a poorly executed NY free kick. The most embarrassing part of Saturday night's 1-3 Red Bulls' home loss to league doormat Toronto was the banner unfurled by the visiting Red Patch Boys in the second deck which spelled out the truth: "Oooh, the Red Bulls are Shite!!!" is what the banner said, in six-foot letters for all of Giants Stadium to see.

After an unbeaten August that had New York dreaming of challenging Columbus for the Supporters' Shield, the Red Bulls have gone into a dreadful late-season swoon. The club is currently on an three-match losing streak and has secured only three of the fifteen points available since Labor Day.

Somehow, with only three matches remaining, the Red Bulls find themsleves in fourth place in the East and in playoff position. MLS parity, however, finds the league's bottom NINE teams within six points of each other with twenty days left in the regular season. only three of the nine will make the postseason. Here's a look at who should make it, and each team's October road...

Real Salt Lake, 35 pts, -1 GD, 3rd place in West: vs. NY, vs. FCD, at COL
RSL is currently in playoff position, and has only lost once in its last six outings. The club will get a huge boost playing its last two home matches in brand new Rio Tinto stadium. Win its home games, and RSL will make the MLS playoffs for the first time.

New York Red Bulls, 35 pts, -5 GD, 4th place in East: at RSL, vs. CMB, at CHI
New York currently holds the first of two MLS wild card spots, but faces the toughest road, starting with the first match at RSL's new stadium on Thursday. Unless the Crew clinches the Supporters' Shield this week, look for the league leaders to start their first team at Giants Stadium on 10/18, which should spell doom for NY. The Fire would like nothing more than to slam the door in Juan Carlos Osorio's face in the season finale.

FC Dallas, 34 pts, +6 GD, 4th place in West: vs. TFC, at RSL, at LA
Dallas in currently in the second and last wild-card spot. FCD is unbeaten in four (2-0-2) and with Kenny Cooper pumping in the goals, should make the postseason. Finishing at LA makes Dallas' road at easy one.

Colorado Rapids, 34 pts, -1 GD, 5th place in West: at LA, at CHV, vs. RSL
The Rapids took a step backwards this week, losing at Houston after a 3-0-1 run. Colorado showed they can win on the road in the 5-4 victory at NY a week ago, and should the club win at Chivas, will be in good shape for the final playoff spot.

Kansas City Wizards, 33 pts, -6 GD, 5th place in East: vs. NE, vs. SJ, at NE
The fate of the Wizards rests mostly with engagment level of New England, as the two clubs will spend 180 minutes together down the stretch. Should the Revs feel the need to push themselves as they did getting two late goals to tie RSL this weekend, KC's fate will be sealed.

DC United, 33 pts, -8 GD, 6th in East: at HOU, vs. NE, at CMB
Boy has United taken a nose dive this season. DC is winless in six (0-4-2) and the club has two more CCL matches to play. The extra-curriculars and injuries have destroyed what could have been a promising season for DC. The schedule down the stretch doesn't help. Stick fork in.

Toronto FC, 31 pts, -8 GD, 7th in East: at FCD, vs. CHI, at SJ
The Reds played well enough to beat a poor NY team on Saturday, but unless TFC can win in Dallas this week, getting to the postseason will be a difficult task.

San Jose Earthquakes, 30 pts, -5 GD, 6th in West: vs. CHV, at HOU, at KC, vs. TFC
Did you know that SJ has lost only ONCE since August 2nd? It's true. The expansion Quakes are 4-1-3 down the stretch and will benefit from having an extra match on its remaining schedule. Sadly, the club faces two stiff tests before easing out the schedule. A home victory vs. Chivas this Saturday, and the Quakes just might make it.

Los Angeles Galaxy, 29 pts, -5 GD, 7th in West: vs. COL, at HOU, vs. FCD
The idea that a club with Beckham and Donovan might finish dead last was laughable in April, but LA may do just that. Of course, Bruce Arena wasn't brought in to be a miracle worker this season, but to rebuild for 2009. Only running the table will get LA in. Don't bet on it.

Predicted first-round match-ups: East: CMB vs. COL, NE vs. CHI, West: HOU vs. FCD, CHV vs. RSL

Thanks, Bob!

Let's hear it for Bob Bradley, for realizing that bringing his young'uns to the next World Cup Qualifier may pay dividends. For Saturday US match vs. Cuba in DC, Bob has called in Freddy Adu, Jozy Altidore, Charlie Davies, and Danny Szetela. Will the kids be alright? A US win will clinch passage to next year's Hexagonal. We'll see.

Friday, September 19, 2008


A listless Red Bulls squad took it on the chin last night, 3-1 at league-leading Columbus.  Even playing with playmaker Guillermo Barros Schellotto, the Crew were too quick, too skilled, and too composed for New York.  Other than a beauty of a free kick goal from Angel, the Red Bulls just weren't connecting on offense.  New York is now 1-7-5 on the road this season, and a 4-7-7 in night games (vs. 4-1-1 in day matches).

So where does the loss leave New York?  Frankly, dropping a spot in the standings behind DC wouldn't be so bad.  A 5th place Eastern finish would send the Red Bulls into the Western playoff bracket to face a Houston side that New York has played well against this season (a 3-0 win at home, a tight 0-1 loss in Texas).  Should the Red Bulls finish 4th in the East (catching 3rd place Chicago is unlikely) New York would match up against the Crew in the first round of the MLS playoffs.  After last night, that's not an encouraging scenario.  

Of course, DC's involvement in the Concacaf Champions League may challenge them to keep their place in the MLS standings.  United will play two matches per week for the next five weeks, including trips to Mexico, Costa Rica, and Honduras.  Unless DC plays their subs (as they did in a 2-0 home loss to Saprissa this week) in the CCL, United's playoff drive may suffer significantly.

Following the Yanks

I had the good pleasure of taking in the US' 3-0 spanking of Trinidad at Toyota Park on Septmeber 10th.  The trip was my first to Bridgeview, and I came away very pleased with the TP experience.  The trip on the El/bus combo took a while from the Loop (about an hour).  Bridgeview, though, is collection of low-slung industrial parks.  The stadium is truly in the middle of nowhere.  Once inside, however, TP is a soccer-lover's dream, with great lighting and an intimate atmosphere (though the sparse crowd was disappointing).  The pitch was perfect, especially when one's used to Giants Stadium.  Food was decent, and the crowd was engaged.  Two enthusiastic thumbs up for Toyota Park.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Super Soccer Saturday

Despite the scribblings of MLS Asst. Commissioner Ivan Gadzidis, tonight's scheduled MLS matches are a complete fiasco.

However, it'll be a great night for sports bar viewing if you can convince the local barkeep to keep two sets on soccer. I'll be at FATS in NYC on W. 33rd Street for the US-Cuba and Fire-Red Bulls matches.

Cuba remains a complete mystery for the Yanks, who'll play the match in Havana, then vamoose before Ike hits the island.

The Red Bulls match revolves around a single matchup: the ability for New York M Dane Richards to use and abuse Chicago second-string rookie D Mike Banner. Chicago's D is by far the stingiest in the league, but without Gonzalo Segares (out on national team duty), Richards is the key to getting to Fire goal.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

A Perfect Storm of MLS Failure

Small rosters. Brutal scheduling. Multiple tournaments. Player injuries. Any other excuses for New England's and Chivas USA's early exit from the inaugural CONCACAF Champions League?

The undermanned Revolution was on the wrong side of a 4-0 pasting by Trinidad's Joe Public last night at Gillette stadium, to drop the two-legged match by a 6-1 aggregate. Playing without Steve Ralston or Taylor Twellman, New England was lethargic, and for good reason. Said head coach Steve Nicol, "The last three months, we've played every four days. That's a lot of traveling. That's why you get what you get tonight -- a team that has no juice. We might manage a training session in the next two weeks."

Since July 8th, New England has played in five Superliga matches , a pair of US Open Cup matches, and the two matches vs. Joe Public, in addition to six MLS matches, for a total of 15 matches over the last seven weeks. Perhaps in the leagues of Europe the constant play is evened out by a deep, deep bench, but MLS' 28-man rosters are much too thin for such overuse.

Chivas USA also crashed out of the competition last night after drawing Panama's Tauro FC 1-1, for a 3-1 aggregate loss.

So now the Revs and Chivas can relax knowing they won't have to contend with the six CCL group-stage matches that DC and Houston will play during the MLS playoff stretch run. Nothing like a trip to El Salvador when the Western Conference title is up for grabs, but that's what the Dynamo will face on October 28th. Perhaps getting blown out at home by a Caribbean side wasn't such a bad idea after all.

Up for the Cup
DC United will play for even more hardware in tonight's US Open Cup final vs. the USL 1st Division's Charleston Battery at RFK (7:30p, FSC). Despite United's 4 MLS Cup championships, DC has hoisted the Dewar Cup only once, in the club's inaugural season of 1996. The Battery completed the Texas two-step by knocking off Houston and Dallas before beating the soon-to-be MLS Seattle Sounders in the Semis. If Charleston can pull the upset, they'll become only the second USL side to win the knockout tournament in the MLS era, since Rochester won the '99 Cup over the Colorado Rapids.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Red Bulls Preview: Game 22 at Scum

The Red Bulls will finally be injury free when New York takes the field vs. DC United on Saturday night at RFK (7:30p, FSC). The Red Bulls have lifted themselves into the playoff mix by picking up nine points at home over the last three Sundays, but if New York is to solidify its hold on a playoff spot, RBNY must figure out how to get the maximum points on the road. The Red Bulls' 1-5-4 road record won't serve the club well come the postseason, and after tomorrow's DC match, New York still has to visit Eastern powers Chicago (twice), and Columbus, and has to open RSL's new stadium on October 9th.

First, however, comes what may be the most important regular season match the club has played in some time. A win at DC would lift the club past United into fourth place, and would serve notice to the rest of the league that New York is for real.

Position, Recent League Form, and playoff position:
DC, 31 pts from 21 matches, 4th East, WLWLW, would face New England in Conf. Semis
New York, 31 pts from 21 matches, 5th East, TTWWW, would face Houston in Conf. Semis

Here's a line-by-line look at tomorrow's match:

The DC forwards vs. the Red Bulls' defense:
Luciano Emilio and Jaime Moreno vs. Kevin Goldthwaite, Andrew Boyens, Jeff Parke, and Diego Jimenez (and Jon Conway). Moreno (9g, 8a) and Emilio (11g, 5a) though a bit grey, are still a dangerous strike force that makes United tick, with 55% of DC's goals this season. Moreno is a Metro killer, with 23 of his 121 all-time goals coming against New York. Without suspended Gabriel Chicero for a second week, the Red Bulls' backline is buoyed by the return of Jeff Parke from injury. New York's D has posted back-to-back shutouts, and has allowed only two goals in the last four games vs. Houston, Toronto, DC, and San Jose. Advantage: Push

New York's attackers vs. the United defense:
Juan Pablo Angel and Mike Magee vs. Brian Namoff, Devon McTavish, and Gonzalo Martinez (and Louis Crayton). Somebody bottle and sell what Mike Magee has been drinking. Magee has scored in New York's last three matches, including a Goal of the Week nominee vs. Houston last Sunday. New York is scoring three goals per match over the last three outings (including 4 in a victory over DC on August 10th), and Juan Pablo Angel is back in top form. United's defense has posted three clean sheets in the club's last five matches, but did allow the aforementioned four goals to the Red Bulls, and two to New England in a loss on August 20th. Slight Advantage: New York

The Midfields:
Dave van den Bergh, Jorge Rojas, Seth Stammler, and Dane Richards vs. Craig Thompson, Clyde Simms, Joe Vide, Santino Quaranta, and Ivan Guerrero. New York's Rojas returns to the starting lineup after clearing up visa problems, and will make the Red Bull attack more dangerous. Richards is flying down the right sideline with verve once again (just ask Pat Onstad). DC will be without the injured Fred (2g, 4a). Former Metro Vide is playing well for DC, and a cleaned up Quaranta, a great story this season, has three goals and three assists for United. Craig Thompson has all of five MLS appearances. Advantage: New York

The Coaches:
Tom Soehn has got to get his club playing well in consecutive games... Osorio knows this match is a test of whether his new squad can deliver on the road. Advantage: Push

DC is 16-7-2 against New York at RFK all-time, and the Red Bulls haven't won at DC since October 2005. After tomorrow's match, DC plays three of its' next four away from Washington, and will be pressing for all the points. The winner of tomorrow's match gets the league-created "Atlantic Cup." Will RFK keep the lights on? Forecast is for thunderstorms, with a high of 84 degrees. Advantage: DC United

I've come to expect the unexpected from the Red Bulls over the last three weeks, and I have to believe DC may be a little concerned about facing the red-hot New York squad. Without Fred, the DC offense sputters. A hard fought 1-1 draw on goals by Moreno (who else?) and Angel.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Chicks, and the Red Bulls, Dig the Longball

Taking the field without three regular starters, the New York Red Bulls used the longball... and the head of leading scorer Juan Pablo Angel, to completely dominate the two-time defending MLS Cup champ Houston Dynamo, 3-0, at Giants Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

After Angel snapped home a Dave van den Bergh header in the 8th minute to open the scoring, Seth Stammler launched a ball down the right side to a speeding and finally healthy Dane Richards, who beat his defender and Houston keeper Pat Onstad to double the lead in the 26th.

In the second half, first-time New York starter Diego Jimenez blasted another home run ball to a streaking Mike Magee, who drew Onstad out of his net and blasted in his fourth goal in his last three matches to close out the scoring, and any hope that Houston could pull out any points in the match..

The Red Bulls finished their August homestand perfectly with three wins in three matches, and now head to DC on the 30th tied on points with United for fourth place in the Eastern Confernce.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Red Bulls Preview: Game #21 vs. Orangina

Jeff Parke is injured. Gabriel Chicero is suspended. Just how will the New York Red Bulls continue their five-match unbeaten streak against Western Division leaders Houston on Sunday (3p, TF)? Adding benched Norway-bound D Hunter Freeman may be the answer. On August 13th, Freeman signed with IK Start of Norway, though he won't join the club until January. Since then, a peeved Juan Carlos Osorio has kept the one-time US Youth International on the bench to punish Freeman for his disloyalty.

The hiccup in New York's backline couldn't have come in a worse time, with 2-time defending MLS Cup champ Houston in town, sporting a four-match winning and seven-match unbeaten streak of their own.

In the clubs' match at Roberston stadium on May 31, an Angel-less New York squad was punished for its one mistake in the game, a defensive lapse on a free kick, allowing Houston a 1-0 victory. The Dynamo played that night without Pat Onstad, Dwayne deRosario, and Brad Davis, who all will take the plastic pitch at Giants Stadium on Sunday. On paper, Houston should roll in this one, but New York has been playing well. Let's take a deeper look.

Position, Recent League Form, and playoff position:
New York, 28 pts from 20 matches, 5th East, TTTWW, would face Houston in Conf. Semis

Houston, 32 pts from 20 matches, 1st West, TWWWW, would face New York in Conf. Semis

Here's a line-by-line look at Sunday's match:

The Houston forwards vs. the Red Bulls' defense:
Brian Ching and Nate Jaqua vs. Kevin Goldthwaite, and Andrew Boyens, and Hunter Freeman (and Jon Conway). Ching may be sapped from playing a physical 90 minutes on Wednesday at Guatemala, but the Flyin' Hawaiian needs only to get a head on the ball to make a difference. did you know that Jaqua has 30 MLS goals? The one-time US MNT prospect has only two this season. Houston, though, is on a scoring tear, having hit the net 12 times in their last four matches. The third man on the NY backline will be busy, whether its Freeman, Carlos Mendes, or newly signed Diego Jimenez. Perhaps given Houston's attacking strength, JCO puts four in the back. Advantage: Push

New York's attackers vs. the Dynamo defense:
Juan Pablo Angel and Mike Magee vs. Wade Barrett, Eddie Robinson, Bobby Boswell, and Richard Mulrooney (and Pat Onstad). Scoring goals for Metro... Mike Magee... Magee has scored in his last two MLS starts, and is proving to be a passable option up front for New York as Osorio continues to close in on a full-time replacement for Jozy Altidore. Angel is playing with verve, but still doesn't have the spark that he did last season. Although the Dynamo allowed three to RSL last weekend, Houston has posted five shutouts in its last seven outings. Wow! Advantage: Houston

The Midfields:
Dave van den Bergh, Juan Pietravallo, Jorge Rojas, Seth Stammler, and Dane Richards, vs. Brad Davis, Dwayne DeRosario, Brian Mullan, and Rico Clark. Houston's midfield has nine of the club's 32 goals to date this season, and when clicking, is deadly. Perhaps Mullan on the right side is a little vulnerable, but the Dynamo has a veteran group that knows how to play as a unit. New York's middle five are skilled, though the jury is still out on Pietravallo. Rojas is a fine holder and distributor of the ball, but can he take advantage of the scoring opportunities he finds? Advantage: Houston

UPDATE at 4p ET: with Jorge Rojas stuck in Venezuela due to visa problems, metro chances for points just went hopeful to slim.

The Coaches:
Houston's Dom Kinnear continues to have his team peaking at the right time, and will surely have his team focused on the first three-peat in MLS history. Osorio is seeing the dividends of his summer acquisition spree, as New York is in playoff position for the first time since late June. Kinnear has the hardware, however. Advantage: Houston

Houston is seventh points clear of missing the postseason, so the Dynamo, who played on Wednesday, may take the foot off the gas a bit in the Jersey heat (forecast is for 85 degrees, partly cloudy, 10% chance of precip.). There's a lot more urgency for the Red Bulls in the match, as three key away Eastern Conf contests (DC, CHI, CMB) loom in the next four weeks. With a point, New York moves ahead of DC in the tightly-packed Eastern standings. The Sunday crowd should be just average. Advantage: New York

Prediction: A win would so help New York get closer to their sixth-straight playoff appearance, but with the options few in the back, and Houston once again in championship form, three points seem to be unlikely. Let's say the teams bat it around in a late-summer hazy 1-1 draw.

Data Point which might intrigue only me: New York and Houston are two of three MLS squads who are unbeaten in August. The other? San Jose!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Winning Ugly Becomes an Art Form

It's a cliche that there are no style points in World Cup qualifying. Just results. The US embodied that cliche last night in a 1-0 victory in Guatemala City in a match that announcer Glenn Davis correctly called a "street fight."

The US did a few things right, plenty wrong, and a few not so well in taking three away points to start the semifinal round of WC 2010 CONCACAF qualifying.

What the US did right:
-Scoring the lone goal, of course, on a clinical header by captain Carlos Bocanegra off a corner kick from DeMarcus Beasley in the 69th minute.

-Shutting down Guatemalan chances in injury time to kill off the match.

-Bringing in Frankie Hejduk and Maurice Edu late to provide needed tenacity and energy on D.

-Starting Tim Howard, who was an absolute rock in goal. My man of the match.

What the US did wrong:
-Retaliate, especially Steve Cherundolo's second yellow for grabbing an opposing player by the ankle after getting mugged for 10 seconds by said player without a call. Losing an experienced defender to a red card on the road in WC qualifying is a massive gaffe, and Cherundolo should have known better.

-Allowing Guatemala's Mario Rodriguez free range on the right side of the attack to create chances.

What the US didn't do so well
-Play with any attacking flow whatsoever.

-Make smart passes out of the back to start attacks.

-Stop Carlos Ruiz from getting chances in the box.

Last night was the first WCQ win at Guatemala in US history, so the accomplishment shouldn't go unnoticed. There's no denying the ugly nature of the win, though. If the Yanks can get another three points at Cuba on September 6th, they'll all but coast to next year's Hexagonal. Let's hope the US can hold the ball more and play with a little more confidence in Havana.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

More than Semi-Excited

The long march begins again for the US MNT, which kicks off the semifinal round of World Cup Qualifying with a match at Estadio Mateo Flores in Guatemala City tonight at 10p ET (ESPN2) against the host country's chapines.

The Yanks are 10-4-5 all-time vs. Guatemala in a series that began in 1977 with four straight losses to the Central American nation. The US hasn't lost to the chapines since a 1-0 decision in January of 1988 (15 matches). In fact, Guatemala hasn't scored since a 1-1 draw in July of 2000 (6 matches ago) in qualifying for the Japan/Korea World Cup.

Will the US be overconfident? Unlikely. Despite the overwhelming historical advantage, the Yanks have only managed draws in each of its last three appearances in Guatemala. Fact is, winning on the road in World Cup qualifying is an
immense challenge, where the crowds, temperatures, and field conditions usually provide the home side with a fighting chance. It was only during the 2006 World Cup cycle that the US proved its ability to win on the road, taking three points at Trinidad and Panama early in the hexagonal en route to an qualification.

On the field, Bob Bradley will field an experienced lineup that should prove more impactful that the experimental one that played for the US in a scoreless draw on 9/7/05, the last WCQ in Guatemala (thought the Yanks had already qualified for WC 06):

That lineup: Hahnemann, Albright, Marshall, Conrad, Vanney, Quaranta (Donovan), Mastroeni, Dempsey (Ralston), Convey, Twellman, Cunningham (Johnson)

Tonight's lineup (proposed): Howard, Cherundolo, Bocanegra, Oneywu, Pearce, Lewis, Bradley, Mastroeni, Beasley, Donovan, Dempsey

Tonight's experienced lineup averages 51 caps/player, and shouldn't be rattled by Estadio Mateo Flores, or the Guatemalans, who have never qualified for the World Cup.

Tonight's other CONCACAF Group A match finds Cuba hosting Trinidad and Tobago. In Group B, Canada hosts Jamaica at BMO Field, and Mexico takes to the Azteca field vs. Honduras. Group C matches include a Central American battle between El Salvador at Costa Rica, and Caribbean one: Surinam at Haiti.

Edu, Guzan, Kljestan and Bradley have traveled from the Beijing Olympics to Guatemala in time for the match, but may be too jet-lagged to be effective. Edu traveled from China to Scotland, where he's about to join Glasgow Rangers, to Guatemala. Talk about frequent flier miles!

Hooray For Steel! The newly renamed Red Bull Arena started going vertical yesterday in Harrison NJ. Plans are for a September 2009 opening, should the Winter allow.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A Soccer Specific Stadium Spoiled?

Yesterday the Toronto Globe reported that the CFL Toronto Argonauts are asking their season ticket base if the team should move to BMO Field, home of Toronto FC of MLS.

Understandably, the soccer fans of Toronto, who have sold out every single home match at the two year-old downtown stadium , are mighty upset that the Argos, who have been around since 1930 and have a smaller season-ticket file than TFC, are considering painting "football" lines on the soccer field.

The Argos have drawn around 30,000 fans per game over the last three seasons at the Rogers Center, the stadium formerly known as SkyDome. In order to make BMO Field, built for TFC and the 2007 U20 World Cup, fit for the CFL, a signifcant alteration would be required which would certainly ruin the intimate feel that has made the field and TFC a huge success.

Will MLS and TFC fans prove to be victims of their own success? Stay tuned.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Some Sunday of Soccer

From yesterday morning's painful US Olympic 2-2 draw with Netherlands, to the Red Bulls' 4-1 demolition of DC United in the late afternoon, the day was a veritable football feast from China to the swamps of Jersey.

The US was seconds away from qualifying for the Olympic quarterfinals before the Oranje's Gerald Sibon (SC Heerenveen) blasted the tying goal under the US wall on a free kick from just outside the penalty area. The gallant US outplayed the heavily favored Dutch for most of the match, making the most of their opporunities through goals by Sacha Klejstan and the pride of Jersey, Jozy Altidore. In the final ten minutes, however, the Netherlands brought on two extra forwards, including world-class overage player Roy Makaay, and converted their best opporuntity to tie the match in the waning seconds.

The draw left the US atop Group B with four points (based on goals scored) and take on Nigeria on Wednesday morning. The Yanks, who'll have to play without midfielders Freddy Adu and Michael Bradley (yellow card accumulation) need at least a draw, or at least a Japan draw vs. Netherlands, to advance. If the US advance, the Yanks could face any of the Group A nations; Argentina, Cote d'Ivoire, Australia, or Serbia in the quarterfinals.

Group B standings:
US, 4 pts, +1 GD
Nigeria, 4pts, +1
Netherlands, 2pts, 0
x-Japan, 0pts, -2

In the afternoon, the New York Red Bulls went down a goal early at Giants Stadium, then lit up the DC United net with four goals in the club's best offensive effort since the monumental 5-4 victory over LA last August 19th. Juan Pablo Angel put two in, including a picture-perfect free kick to open the Red Bulls scoring in the 27th minute. Much maligned Mike Magee scored off a rebound just before halftime to give NY the lead, and after JPA's second, Sinisa Ubiparipovic tallied with minutes to play for the 4-1 win, the most lopsided New York victory in the 13-year series between the clubs.

New York needed the victory to keep pace in the improving MLS East, where the bottom four clubs are all sitting on 25 points. The Red Bulls' 3-goal victory helped its poor goal differential (now a -5), though New York sits 6th place. Next up: another of those 25-point clubs in Toronto FC, who snapped a 6-match winless streak at Colorado. Here's a hopeful sign for New York for Sunday's match. Since June 1, TFC is 2-0-0 vs. the Rapids and 0-5-2 vs. the rest of MLS.

Game Notes:
Yesterday's match drew 15,038 to Giants Stadium, the largest non-Saturday crowd of the season...Seven yellow cards were distributed in the physical match, three to the Red Bulls, four to DC... Both DC and New England, who will play each other in a US Open Cup semifinal Tuesday night, lost their MLS matches this weekend...before yesterday, the Red Bulls hadn't scored more than two goals in a match all season.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Red Bulls Preview: Game #19 vs. Scum

Let's hear it for parity. Despite a five-match league winless streak (seven straight overall), the Red Bulls are only a single point out of a playoff spot with twelve matches to play. Over the last few weeks, the club has brought in help, including Venezuelan international defender Gabriel Chicero, who played 45 minutes with New York in Wednesday's schooling by Barcelona. Along with defender Diego Jimenez, and midfielders Jorge Rojas and Juan Pietrovallo, the new-look Red Bulls hope to get the stretch-run started with a win against rival DC United in the first of three straight home games at Giants Stadium.

Though United crashed out of the SuperLiga with three straight losses, the club has won four of its last five MLS outings, including a 2-0 victory at home vs. Kansas City last week, when MLS all-time goal scoring leader Jaime Moreno, and the rejuvenated Luciano Emilio both scored for DC.

Position, Recent League Form, and playoff position:
New York, 22 pts from 18 matches, 7th East, TLLTT, out of playoffs

DC United 25 pts from 17 matches, 4th East, WWWLW, would face New England in Conf. Semis

Here's a line-by-line look at Sunday's match:

The DC forwards vs. the Red Bulls' defense:
Luciano Emilio and Jaime Moreno vs. Kevin Goldthwaite, Jeff Parke, and Andrew Boyens (and Jon Conway). Emilio (11g) and Moreno (7g) have scored as many goals as the entire Red Bull team this season. Wednesday's thrashing by Barca not included, New York has allowed 10 goals in the Red Bulls' last five league matches. Will New York coach Osorio stick with his three-man back line at home? Perhaps Jimenez and/or Chicero get the starting nod here. Advantage: DC

New York's attackers vs. the United defense:
Juan Pablo Angel and Danliegh Borman vs. Bryan Namoff, Devon McTavish, Pat Carroll, and Marc Burch (and Zack Wells). Without the departed Jozy Altidore, New York has struggled to a) find a strike partner for Angel and b) put goals in the net. The Red Bulls have scored 19 goals in 18 matches, bad enough for 11th in the 14-team MLS. The DC defense has been taking it on the chin in lately (10g allowed in last five overall outings), but United did pitch a shutout vs. KC last week. Until NY can prove it can generate some offense... Advantage: DC

The Midfields:
Dave van den Bergh, Carlos Mendes, Jorge Rojas, and Seth Stammler, vs. Fred, Clyde Simms, Joe Vide, and Ivan Guerrero. Mendes is not the answer at d-mid, especially if Pietrovallo can go, but the midfield is where New York may have an advantage. Rojas certainly looks like the playmaker that New York hoped retired Claudio Reyna would be, and van den Bergh is playing well. Former Metro Joe Vide, as all former Metros do when playing New York, will surely have a great outing. Advantage: Push

The Coaches:
DC's Tommy Soehn survived his second straight slow start, but United is poised climb up the league table. Juan Carlos Osorio is ambling along during the summer doldrums, but his new arrivals need to make their prescence felt. After depressing draws vs. LA and at San Jose, there's not a lot of confidence in JCO or Sporting Director Jeff Agoos' abilities. Advantage: DC

DC hasn't lost to New York since October 8th, 2005, a span of five matches (4-0-1), but may get caught looking ahead to Tuesday's US Open Cup semfinal vs. New England. A match with DC usually draws the fans to Giants Stadium, so the Red Bulls should enjoy a home-field advantage. Forecast is for a high of 81, with pm T-storms likely (60%). Advantage: DC

Prediction: Unless the new New York arrivals make an impact, it's hard to imagine the Red Bulls winning this match. Let's say Moreno, Emilio, and why not, Joe Vide score for United, and Angel for New York in a 3-1 DC victory.

Tack it to the Locker Room Wall
Think Dutch Olympic coach Foppe de Haan coach is concerned about facing the US on Sunday? Said de Haan, "They don't have anybody extremely good," when discussing the Yanks. Them's fighting words. While no one who watched the US' 1-0 win over Japan on Thursday morning is penciling in the US for the final, let's hope Petr Novak's boys make de Haan eat some crow. A win clinches a quarterfinal spot for the US. A draw won't hurt. Even a loss to the Netherlands will keep the Yanks in the running on the 13th vs. Nigeria.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Instant Classic

Those that said that last night's SuperLiga final would be a glorified friendly had no idea what they were talking about. At Gillette Stadium, New England and Houston put on a thrilling, intense, physical, advertisement for American soccer that ended in the eighth round of penalty kicks when the Dynamo's Corey Ashe hit the crossbar with his attempt, giving the Revs the SuperLiga title.

But New England didn't back into it's first win over Houston in three finals meetings. The Revolution, playing with out regulars Jay Heaps (red card) and Michael Parkhurst (Olympics) twice came back from a goal down, once in the first half and once in extra time, to force penalty kicks. Revs coach Steve Nicol survived a questionable decision by letting New England keeper Matt Reis kick attempt the team's second pk, which Reis missed badly.

Man-of-the-match Reis then redeemed himself by stopping tries by Houston's Dwyane DeRosario and Brian Ching before New England's Chris Albright lashed the Revs' eighth attempt pash Dynamo keeper Pat Onstad. When Ashe's try hit the crossbar, the vocal New England crowd of 9,200+ erupted in joy in seeing their team finally vanquish Houston, who had defeated their Revs both the 2006 and 2007 MLS Cup Finals.

With the SuperLiga victory, New England has the chance to become the first MLS side to collect four major trophies in a single year. The Revs take on DC United in the US Open Cup semifinals at RFK on the 12th. New England, currently on top of the MLS Standings, is in position to win its first Supporters' Shield, and of course MLS Cup looms in November. The Revolution also opens play in the inaugural Concacaf Champions League against Trinidad's Joe Public on the 26th, but that title won't be determined until next April.

Game Notes
Great to see Revs and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft on the Gillette Stadium field after the match, receiving the SuperLiga trophy from team captain Steve Ralston and celebrating with the team and fans... Perhaps as a show of solidarity over the small percentage of the tournament's million-dollar prize going to players, the Revs did not join MLS Commissioner Garber on the winner's podium, but rather Ralston quickly took the tournament trophy without much fanfare, leaving the confetti cannons and fireworks to erupt on their own... Nice to see Dynamo coach Dom Kinnear's and Chris Albright's take part in interviews with the TeleFutura sideline reporter in Spanish... Referee Howard Web, on loan from the English Premier League, was laudatory in a post-match interview of the quality of play, and compared it favorably to an EPL match.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Red Bull Speaks on the Stadium Status

In an email to season ticket holders yesterday, Red Bull New York Managing Director Erik Stover cleared the air over reports that Red Bull Park construction was being held up over a pending eminent domain case, further delaying the opening of the new home of the Red Bulls in Harrison, NJ. Wrote Stover,

Dear RBNY Supporters,

There have been a number of inaccurate articles published recently regarding construction off Red Bull Park and I wanted to reach out to you directly to clarify some of the facts.

We have completed the piles and pile caps as well as the underground work of Red Bull Park and we are still committed to opening in 2009.

The pieces for the next phase of construction are ready and waiting, which includes the erection of structural steel. Cranes are on-site and ready to go once we receive the next set of permits that are to be issued by the Town of Harrison. We expect to receive these permits by the middle of August, possibly sooner.

As you can imagine, a project of this magnitude can be difficult and will have its ups and downs along the way. However we remain committed to the project and continue to move construction forward. We are still within the timetable for a 2009 opening as we've anticipated delays and have built contingencies for these possible delays into the plan. Should we get to the point where 2009 is not feasible due to delays that are out of our control, we will communicate to you directly so that you hear it from us first.

Thank you for your patience as we work to bring you a world-class stadium that we can all call our home.


Erik Stover
Managing Director
New York Red Bulls
There's a lot more that Red Bull could be doing to manage fans' expectations over the much-delayed stadium project (Red Bull held a groundbreaking for the stadium on September 16th, 2006, nearly two years ago). Most other MLS clubs have produced rich-media web sites generating excitement and communicating progress about their soccer-specifc stadia. Take RSL's, for example. Red Bull has chosen minute-long videos that air during halftime of the team's televised matches to show "updates" on stadium construction. However, there's a lot more that Red Bull can do to show the club's small but passionate fan base what's happening on the Harrison stadium site. The current Red Bull Park web site is woefully spare. Of course, if there's really not much going on... there's not a lot to talk about, but RB could really make a better effort in informing their fans.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Revs to Meet Houston in SuperLiga Final

For the third time in less than three years, New England and Houston will play for a title. The Revs made the second edition of the SuperLiga Final an all-MLS affair by knocking off Mexico's Atlante, 1-0 at Gillette Stadium last night in the semis.

The Revs' Shalrie Joseph scored the night's only goal with a header off a free kick in the 30th minute. The end of the match showed once again the lack of sportsmanship by the Mexicans, as Atlante instigated a bench-clearing brawl as the final whistle sounded.

New England is 0 for 2 vs. the Dynamo in title matches, losing the last two MLS Cup Finals to Houston, 2-1 last season, and in penalty kicks after a 1-1 draw in 2006. This time, though, the Revs will benefit from home cooking, as the SuperLiga final will be held in Foxboro on August 5th (8p, Telefutura).

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Houston to SuperLiga Final

Congrats to the Dynamo, who knocked off defending SuperLiga champ Pachuca last night, 2-0 at Robertson stadium in Houston. Pat Onstad stood on his head early in the second half, blocking many point-blank scoring opportunities by the Tuzos. Pachuca had an goal called back due to offside in the 60th minute, and former scum Bobby Boswell knocked in a bouncing ball of a corner kick in the 77th to give Houston the lead. The Dynamo's Corey Ashe headed in a magnificent looping ball by Brian Mullan in the 87th to cement the victory.

Houston awaits tonight's second semifinal between New England and Atlante (8p ET, Telefutura) for its opponent in the August 5th final.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Red Bulls Preview: Game #18 at Shakes

Last week, the New York Red Bulls let two points slip away in injury time vs. LA at home. Sunday afternoon, New York will have a golden opportunity to escape last place in the East when they play the West's bottom-feeder, San Jose (3-9-5), at Buck Shaw Stadium in Santa Clara (3p, MSG+).

The last time out, the New York offense was invigorated by the addition of midfielder Jorge Rojas, who assisted on both Red Bull goals in 2-2 draw with the Galaxy. Will Rojas continue to click with his new teammates? To beat the Earthquakes and win for the first time in five league matches, New York will have to overcome its own futility on the road (1-5-3) and win away from Giants Stadium for the first time since May 10th.

Position and Recent Form:
New York, 21 pts from 17 matches, 7th East, WTLLT
San Jose, 14 pts from 17 matches, 7th West, TTLTL

Here's a line-by-line look at Sunday's match:

The San Jose forwards vs. the Red Bulls' defense:
Ryan Johnson and Scott Sealy vs. Dave van den Bergh, Kevin Goldthwaite, Jeff Parke, and Chris Leitch (and Jon Conway). 11 goals in 17 matches won't win you many games, and the Quakes have won three all season. Sealy, recently traded from Kansas City, is a Red Bull killer. Johnson, the all-time scorer in Oregon State history, leads San Jose with three goals this season. New York's D did a decent job shutting down the high-powered LA offense last week... until after the ninetieth mintute. van den Bergh has been the Red Bulls' brightest spot this season with five goals scored. Advantage: New York

New York's attackers vs. the Quakes' defense:
Juan Pablo Angel and Oscar Etcheverry vs. James Riley, Ryan Cochrane, Jason Hernandez, and Eric Denton (and Joe Cannon). Despite San Jose's offensive woes, the Quakes' defense has kept them in games. In fact, SJ's D has allowed only one goal in the club's last four league outings. As much as Etcheverry tries to keep up, he simply can't match Angel's speed or skill. As a result, San Jose may ignore the Etcheverry threat and double-team JPA and dulling New York's chances. Advantage: San Jose

The Midfields:
Carlos Mendes Luke Sassano, Jorge Rojas, and Seth Stammler, vs. Francisco Lima, Ramiro Corrales, Darren Huckerby, and Ronnie O'Brien. Without the injured Dane Richards, any New York speed advantage on the flanks has been neutralized. The Stammler-Rojas connection will be key to creating opportunites for Angel up top. San Jose's Newcomer Huckerby from England's Norwich may provide a spark as he meshes with his new teammates. Corrales and O'Brien are on the downside of their careers. Advantage: Push

The Coaches:
In his first year back in San Jose, Quakes coach Frank Yallop has a free pass as he tries to field a competitive squad. He has a history of success that's among the league's best. New York's Juan Carlos Osorio knows he's tantlizingly close to playoff position and is trying to incorporate his new signings into the squad. All the pressure's on JCO. Advantage: San Jose

The intimate crowd in Buck Shaw will certainly lift the Quakes. New York is trying to create a little momentum in a classic trap game. The Red Bulls face DC, Toronto and Houston next. Advantage: San Jose

Prediction: JCO knows the power of a defense in sync, and San Jose has figured out how to keep the ball out of the net. The Stammler-Rojas-van den Burgh-Angel quartet break down the Quakes' D in a 1-0 New York win.

Poaching Our Young?

The Wall Street Journal's Joe Weinbach looks at European clubs mining the U.S. for youth talent. Interesting point that these elite youth players' sights are firmly on Europe, not MLS.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Better Than A Sharp Stick in the Eye...Barely

Last night's two-two draw with FC Goldenballs provided plenty of excitement and optimism as the New York Red Bulls head in to the All-Star Break, but frankly, the team did plenty to give away two points in a game New York led into injury time.

The debut of Venezulean midfielder Jorge Rojas, who assisted on both New York goals, provided a significant boost to the Red Bulls' offense, as the team scored more than a single goal for the first time in 14 outings in all competitions. Certainly, the Rojas-Angel attacking combo will be critical if New York will make a playoff run.

However, Oscar Etcheverry needs to be put out to pasture sooner rather than later. Numerous times last night, the Colombian recieved the ball 30+ yards from goal, raced up the flank, and passed into the center without once glancing to see if a teammate was nearby for a scoring opportunity. Usually, there wasn't.

Dave van den Bergh got huge marks not only for his massive first-half blast that opened the New York scoring, but his tenacity despite getting repeatedly knocked down by the LA defense.

Angel's goal was a thing of beauty, chipping Cronin from inside the six-yard box to give New York the lead in the 71st minute. Angel's awareness that he was without help and experience in beating the young Galaxy keeper was superb.

Alas, New York's "Curse of Caricola" continued, as the Red Bulls were unable to put the match away despite three excellent scoring opportunities in the second half. In fact, New York was lucky to escape with a single point when LA's Landon Donovan banged a shot off the left post with seconds to play in injury time.

So where to go from here? Newcomer Juan Pietrovallo made his debut as well last night, and with defenders Gabriel Cichero and Diego Jimenez soon to arrive, New York's midseason renovation will be complete. On Sunday, the Red Bulls visit bottom-of-the-table San Jose, before a road matches at DC, Toronto, and Houston that will go a long way towards determining New York's playoff fate. Let's hope the new and current Red Bulls will gel on the road and continue the attacking style displayed Saturday at Giants Stadium.


The hard-core Red Bull fandom protested the lack of effort in the club's July 1st US Open Cup loss to USL-2 squad Crystal Palace Baltimore by hanging the many fan banners in the Empire End of Giants Stadium upside down... the crowd of 46,754 was the largest to watch an MLS match this year... All five MLS matches this week ended in draws.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

An Ugly Loss, but Hope for the Future

The Red Bulls crashed out of this year's U.S. Open Cup on Tuesday in ignominious fashion, bowing to a USL-2 club, Crystal Palace Baltimore, by a 2-0 score in Annapolis, MD. New York coach Juan Carlos Osorio sent out a group of mostly reserve-team players to take on the Charm City side, and the amped-up, lower-division boys proved that heart and desire have a decided advantage over a roster of substitutes. Despite playing a man up for nearly an hour, New York's 4-5-1 formation was unable to break through the less-than-vaunted Baltimore defense.

What made the outing even more embarrasing was that fifty of New York's hard-core fans made the 200-mile trek to Annapolis, and got a horrible effort and a worse performance from the Red Bulls for their trouble.

There's a decided lack of connection between the club and its fans, perhaps best highlighted on the official Red Bulls Reader blog comments about the game. At the end of the day, fans want a club that gives maximum effort, even if the results don't come. The Red Bulls, currently averaging 13,500 fans per match, will be playing to even more empty seats unless the on-field effort improves.

Hope is on the way, however. Yesterday the club announced the arrival of two new internationals to the roster, who will join the team when the transfer period opens on the 15th. 31-year old Venezuelan midfielder Jorge Rojas joins the Red Bulls from Union Atletico Maracaibo. Rojas has 82 caps with the vinotinto, making him the second-most capped player in Venezuelan history. Argentine Juan Pietravallo is a 26-year old journeyman midfielder that has played in Greece, Spain, and his native land for clubs like Velez Sarsfield, Gimnasia, Quilmes, and Nueva Chicago. New York is also negotiating with Mexican youth international defender Diego Jimenez.

Of course, Rojas and Pietravallo will need time to adjust to JCO's system, and without the injured Juan Pablo Angel up front, New York's attack will continue to be stunted. However, given that the Red Bulls are a goal differential tie-breaker away from a playoff spot, a late run would certainly propel the team into the post-season. A win at Colorado tomorrow night (9:30p, MSG), would be a great start.

Monday, June 23, 2008


It was hard to imagine the US "B" team equaling the full team's first-leg effort in yesterday's 1-0 win at Barbados, but the young Yanks (with goal-scorer Lewis and DeMarcus Beasley thrown in) did enough to propel the US to Concacaf's WC 2010 Semifinal Qualifying Round.

With US U-20 stars Freddy Adu (assist on the Lewis goal), Michael Bradley, and Danny Szetela running the midfield, the Yanks didn't play the most sterling ball ever, but with an 8-0 cushion after leg one in LA, the young stars just had to manage the match. Mission accomplished.

Next up, the four-team semifinal round. Here's the Group One schedule as follows (top two clubs advance):

Wed August 20th at GUATEMALA
Sat. September 6th at CUBA
Wed. September 10th vs. TRINDAD at Toyota Park, Chicago
Sat. October 11th vs. CUBA at RFK, Washington

Wed. October 15th at TRINIDAD

Wed. November 19th vs. GUATEMALA at DSG Park, Denver

While the US will be favorites to advance, don't discount Carlos Ruiz and his Guatemala side. The L.A. Galaxy striker ran roughshod over St. Lucia in a 9-1 aggregate series. The Cuba matches will of course have their own political intrigue, and Trinidad answered the bell just in time in their second leg vs. Bermuda to advance.

The US is thankful the draw didn't place the Yanks into Group Two, where Honduras, Canada, and Jamaica all take on Mexico. All four clubs have the skills to take part in next year's hexagonal; only two will get the opportunity.

Stepping Up

Not a bad week for the Red Bulls: a draw away to league-leading New England, and a 1-0 home win versus an FC Dallas side hoping to impress their new boss. D Kevin Goldthwaite was the hero on Saturday, heading in a Sinisa Ubiparipovic corner in the first half for the only goal. This week New York plays two Chivases: the Mexican version on Wednesday night in Phoenix, and the American version Saturday night at the HDC. Given the depleted nature of the Red Bulls lineup (No Angel, no Reyna, who is contemplating retirement), the midweek match could get ugly fast.

New York's decent record (5-4-4) is good enough for eighth place on the league table. However, the Red Bulls would miss the playoffs if the season ended today due to MLS' mandate that at least three clubs from each conference qualify for postseason play. New York is currently in sixth place in the MLS East.

Finally Making Progress

Let's hear it for Real Salt Lake. Not only is the Wasatch club months away from christening (mormoning?) its own soccer-specifc stadium, but RSL is 3-0-2 in their last five matches, with only two goals conceded over that span. Team Xango is in second place in the MLS West, two points behind FC Hollywood.

Europa, Europa

Look for Germany to advance over Turkey, the cardiac kids of this year's Euro Championships, on Wednesday in the semis. Spain will best Russia on Wednesday, leaving an intriguing matchup in the Final.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

US Roster for Barbados: Song Remains the Same

US Coach Bob Bradley has taken most of the players from his recent three-match run against world powers to take on lowly Barbados on Sunday at the Home Depot Center (5p ET, ESPN2). The roster...

G: Cervi, Guzan, Howard
D: Bocanegra, Califf, Cherundolo, DeMerit, Hejduk, Oneywu, Pearce
M: Adu, Beasley, Bradley, Edu, Klejstan, Lewis, Mastroeni
F: Ching, Dempsey, Donovan, Johnson

My probables to take on the 121st-ranked Barbadans...

Cherundolo, Oneywu, Bocanegra, Pearce
Beasley, Mastroeni, Bradley, Donovan
Dempsey, Ching

Rico Clark was left off the roster, replaced by Houston teammate Brian Ching, who has to be in better form than Eddie Johnson up top.

While many younger up and comers (Cooper, Altidore, Rogers) were left off the roster, this veteran group will look to take command early and snuff any hint of optimism from Barbados. With a three-goal cushion, look for Adu and Edu to come in during mop-up time.

Let's get this party started!

Monday, June 09, 2008

What a Night

Should the US qualify for its sixth straight World Cup in about eighteen months' time, the team may point to last night's entertaining and at times electrifying scoreless draw at a packed Giants Stadium as the shot of confidence needed to conquer CONCACAF.

Note only did the Yanks battle toe-to-toe with the world top-ranked Argentineans, but strong individual performances from Tim Howard (who stood on his head to keep a clean sheet), Landon Donovan (in his 100th US appearance) and DaMarcus Beasley (his best game since returning from a long injury) should carry the US past through the fall qualifying sequence with ease.

Of concern is the continued funk of striker Eddie Johnson, so hasn't scored for the US in almost a year, as well as the inconsistency of the youthful Maurice Edu, who needs more seasoning, and will get it in time.

The atmosphere in the Giants Stadium US Supporters Section was electric, even in 95 degree heat, as fans of both sides were entertained by the skill of the visitors and the desire of the home team.

Had Onyewu's 46th minute header found the net instead of the crossbar, American soccer fans would be celebrating an historical victory. However, the US squad looks ready to break their goalless streak on Sunday at the HDC versus Barbados.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Red Bulls Preview: Game #10 vs. Goats

Crazy week at work + Thursday night match = cop-out deference to ESPN's all-too short video preview. Enjoy.

Sadly, ESPN has pulled the video...apologies.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Jozy Sold

Ives Galarcep, Michael Lewis, and Stephen Goff are reporting that MLS has sold Red Bulls Striker Jozy Altidore to Villareal, runners-up in the Spanish League this season, for $8MM. Altidore will report after passing a physical and agreeing to terms with the European club.

For the Red Bulls, who were anemic in a 1-0 loss to Houston on Saturday, the departure couldn't have come at a worse time. The club has scored only twice in its last three outings.

For a team with so many needs, the inevitable departure of Altidore only leaves more of a hole in yet another disappointing MLS season.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Red Bulls Preview: Game #9 @ Orange

How to come back from a beatdown? That's the question facing the New York Red Bulls (3-2-3) as they travel to Houston to take on the two-time defending MLS Cup Champion Dynamo (2-3-5) on Saturday night (8:30p, HDNet). After last Sunday's 5-1 home loss to Chicago, Red Bulls defender Jeff Parke noted that practice was like "walking on egg shells." However, New York is catching Houston at just the right time.

Star keeper Pat Onstad and super midfielder Dwayne DeRosario are away with the Canadian national team, and former Metro Rico Clark is with Bob Bradley's US squad. Defender Wade Barrett is doubtful with an adductor strain, so Houston, which has had a rough start to the season, will be without many key pieces.

New York's Claudio Reyna will miss his third of four matches, and midfielder Dave van den Burgh won't make the trip, as his wife is expecting birth of their second child. Regardless of the personnel on the field, the Red Bulls need points, as the Eastern Conference leaders (NE, CHI, CMB) have begun to pull away from the pack.

Position and Recent Form:
Houston, 11 pts from 10 matches, 5th West, TWWLT
New York, 12 pts from 8 matches, 5th East, WTWTL

Here's a line-by-line look at Saturday's match:

The Houston forwards vs. the Red Bulls' defense:
Kyle Brown and Brian Ching vs. Kevin Goldthwaite, Jeff Parke, and Hunter Freeman (and Jon Conway). Sub Brown went 58 minutes in the Dynamo's 2-2 draw at Dallas on Wednesday. He's scored twice in 23 league appearances, but Houston's scoring threat is with Ching, who could have come in handy in the US' 2-0 loss to England this week. Ching's ability to score with his head will be crucial on dead-ball situations. For New York, the name of the game is confidence, which was invisible in last weeks' demolition by the Fire. With the right attitude, and Parke's handling of Ching, the Red Bulls could return to their stingy ways. Advantage: Push

New York's attackers vs. the Dynamo defense:
Jozy Altidore and Juan Pablo Angel vs. Richard Mulrooney, Patrick Ianni, Bobby Boswell, and Geoff Cameron (and Tony Caig). Is Jozy Altidore tired? Distracted? He's certainly leads New York in frustration as MLS defenses key on him. If he's ready to make his move to Europe, a breakout performance won't hurt. Houston is giving up 1.5 goals/match, and a third of their goals conceded are from outside the penalty area. With Caig in net, there could be more. Advantage: New York

The Midfields:
Dane Richards, Luke Sassano, Mike Magee, Seth Stammler and Danleigh Borman, vs. Brian Mullan, Brad Davis, Stuart Holden, and Corey Ashe. The return of Stammler to the Red Bulls lineup after three matches nursing a bad back will settle the club from the d-mid position. Richards will have to neutralize the equally speedy Ashe, who helped set up Houston's injury-time goal in Dallas, allwing Houston to escape PHP with a draw. Former Metro Davis always relishes playing New York. Mullan will have his handful in Borman on the left side. Advantage: Push

The Coaches:
Dom Kinnear has done in all in American Soccer: National team player, original member of the Tampa Bay Mutiny, and MLS Cup winning coach. He's walked it and talked it, and questionable lineup or not, his club will be ready. Juan Carlos Osorio has his first true coaching challenge for the season: getting his club to erase last week's performance from its memory, and focus on the task at hand. He really needs better players. Advantage: Houston

With Mark Cuban's HDNet the exclusive television outlet for tomorrow night's match, a large walk-up crowd will create a big advantage at Robertson Stadium. With a daytime high temp of 92 degrees, expect a hot night that'll be helpful to NY's younger legs. Advantage: Push

Prediction: The Red Bulls simply have to take advantage of the holes in Houston's lineup to deliver a victory against a weaker opponent. Houston will be fine in the weak, weak MLS West and will be playing for a draw from the outset. Angel and Altidore both score a 2-0 New York win.