Friday, March 28, 2008

MLS Preview: Ten Words or Less

Mazel Tov to MLS on its Bar Mitzvah birthday! Here are one man's team-by-team thoughts on a league that's "all grows up," in predicted order of finish.

Cup Contenders:

DC UNITED: New faces will propel elite club to another title.

HOUSTON: Orange will be crushed in final after winning West.

NEW ENGLAND: Can Twellman carry the team without departed Noonan? Unlikely.

Playoff Bound:

CHIVAS USA: With Guzano in net, Preki's boys will be strong again. Where are fans?

KANSAS CITY: Intimate home, new Argie star enlivens Sky Blues. Good story.

CHICAGO: Once cancer Conde's gone, Blanco's boys will entertain and contend.

On the Fence:

NEW YORK: Donut club: Strong in front & back, weak in the middle. And tasty.

DALLAS: A healthy Toja and Cooper will keep the Deep Dish rocking.

COLORADO: Gomez lifts all Rapids. Coundoul will be the difference maker.

Playing for Pride:

LOS ANGELES: Gals' wins will be of the 4-3, 3-2 variety. There's no D in LA.

COLUMBUS: Will Sigi's youth movement finally start to mature? Not this year.

SALT LAKE: A revamped Real will win more than last year, just not enough.

Bottom O' the Barrel:

TORONTO: Won't take four matches to score this year. Home crowd gets antsy.

SAN JOSE: Yay, you're back! Ooh, you're bad! When's the season over?

Argies in Gotham
Well, Argies in the swamp, actually. Here's to the Fed for scheduling a killer friendly with Argentina on Sunday, June 8th at Giants Stadium. It'll be the Yanks' first appearance in the New York area since the 2005 Gold Cup Final, and along with matches at England (May 28th) and Spain (June 4th), should put our boys in fine shape to take on mighty Barbados to open World Cup Qualifying in Carson on June 15th, don't you think?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

MLS at 13: Media Push

You have to hand it to the media relations folks at MLS headquarters. The league is taking to the air and the web to promote the new season, kicking off this Saturday. Here's Don Garber and Ben Olsen reaching dozens of viewers on the Fox Business Channel yesterday:

Wizards Captain Jimmy Conrad shared thoughts on the trailing end of his career on cool thought-provoking site BigThink!

...and of course, here's Goldenballs on 60 Minutes this past Sunday...

Nice job, guys!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Can American Teams Go 3-For-3?

All in all, it's been a pretty good week for American soccer. The Fed finally announced the US-England match at Wembley for May 28th, and the Yanks learned they'll be playing Spain in the beautiful, seaside town of Santander on June 4th.

On the field, the news was great as well, as both DC United and Houston advanced to the semifinals of this year's Concacaf Champions Cup. On Tuesday, DC, playing at home for the first time since the Nats vamoosed from RFK, hammered Jamaica's Harbour View FC 5-0 for a 6-1 aggregate series win. There were plenty of heroes to go around, as Devon McTavish and Luciano Emilio each netted two goals. United next takes on Mexican powerhouse and tournament holders Pachuca, who advanced with a 1-0 aggregate win over CD Motagua of Honduras.

Last night at Robertson Stadium, Houston was kick-started by a Dwayne DeRosrio PK early in the second half for a 3-1 win over Guatemala's CSD Municipal. The two-time defending MLS Cup champs await tonight's match between Mexico's Atlante and Costa Rica's Saprissa to learn their semifinal opponent.

Then there's tonight. Qualifying matches for any tournament can be ugly. Elbows are sharp, dives are more frequent, and questionable pks can turn fortunes. To say that the US Under-23 squad has been winning ugly in its Olympic Qualifying quest is a massive, massive understatement. A 1-1 draw with Cuba, followed by 1-0 victories over Panama and Honduras (both on pks) haven't exactly generated confidence that the Gnats can get the job done. Tonight, the mission is clear: beat Canada in Nashville (9p ET, FSC) and head to Beijing. Lose, and stay home. The US squad has been bolstered by the addition of D Jonathan Spector of West Ham, but to date, this all-pro U-23 team has yet to impress.

As Important
Steve Amoia at SoccerLens has done a great job chronicling the ongoing story of the Fugees Family, an incredible Clarkston, GA youth program headed by Jordanian coach Luma Mufleh. The Fugees were profiled in a 2007 article in The New York Times, and since then, life has gotten better... much better. A great quote at the end of the article as well. Check it out.