Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Sight and Sound

Viva la multimedia from the expanding Kin of Fish empire. First, the gracious MatchFit USA hosted yours truly on his weekly podcast. We shoot the breeze on the US outing vs. El Salvador, RBNY-New England, MLS Marketing, and the upcoming CBA negotiations. A great time and a super blog.

Next, here's a link to photos of my recent tour of Red Bull Arena, a work in progress. Take a gander...

Friday, March 27, 2009

US Soccer: Fishing for Minnows

Left, The Dude Abides, courtesy of the USMNT Blog

It's 2009, and unlike 1997 or 2001, the US is a stone-cold lock to qualify for the World Cup. In those years, the Yanks were maturing, and wins in Central America were something to dream about. Now, as the US guns for its sixth-straight World Cup finals appearance, the Yanks are massive favorites ahead of matches at El Salvador (Saturday, 9:30p et, ESPN2), and in Nashville vs. Trinidad & Tobago (Wednesday, 7:30p, ESPN2).

Should the US pick up wins in both matches, the Yanks' 9 points would put them halfway to clinching a berth with seven qualifying matches to play.

On Saturday, the US gets M Pablo Mastroeni back from suspension, but will be without G Tim Howard (yellow cards). Frankly though, with Guzan, Bocanegra, Oneywu, Ching, Altidore, Bradley, Dempsey, and Donovan, and Kljestan on the roster, our boys could shut out the hosts and put three or four past the Salvadorans, who had to rally to draw Honduras at home in their first Hexagonal match.

This qualifying slog is not about simply qualifying, but gunning for seed that will keep them away from one European power during next summer's finals. With wins in qualifying, and strong showings in this summer's Confederations Cup and Gold Cup, the US just might get there.

Red Bulls Preview: Match #2 vs. Revs

What's to make of New York's opening night crash and burn at Seattle? Is Seattle that good? Are the Red Bulls that awful? The prospects for New York will be brighter once the early-season reinforcements arrive, but tomorrow's prospects against the Revs (7:30p, FSC) seem dicey. New York will be missing six starters for the match: newly signed D Carlos Johnson (with Costa Rica), D Andrew Boyens (with New Zealand) and M Jorge Rojas (with Venezuela) will be on national team duty. M Seth Stammler is still rehabbing, and D Alberto Celades is still awaiting his visa. G Jon Conway continues to sit out his "Jungle Warfare" suspension, so NY will have to continue with backup Danny Cepero, who saved his team from losing by more than three goals last Thursday in Seattle.

Can New England, who won at San Jose last week, continue its strong road play without an injured Taylor Twellman? let's take a deep dive and see:

Position and Recent Form:
New York, 0 pts from 1 match, 7th East, L
New England, 3 pts from 1 match, 3rd East, W

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

The New England forwards vs. the Red Bulls' defense:
Kenny Mansally and Kheli Dube vs. Kevin Goldthwaite, Mike Petke, Carlos Mendes and Jeremy Hall (and Danny Cepero). Dube got the lone goal in New England victory over the Quakes last week. Mansally is a burner, and will test rookie Hall on the Red Bulls' right side. Goldthwaite got a knock this week in practice, so look for the Revs to test him. Frankly, just about any performance would improve on the traffic-cone imitation that the Red Bulls showed last week. While Cepero had some quality saves vs. the Sounders, he was badly out of position on Fredy Montero's first goal last week. Advantage: New England

New York's attackers vs. the Revolution defense:
Juan Pablo Angel vs. Chris Tierney, Jay Heaps, Darrius Barnes, and Kevin Alston (and Matt Reis). It's no surprise to say that Angel will perform only on the quality of the service provided him. Last week, New York's Rojas couldn't spring Angel. While the largely no-name New England backline is green (Tierney, Barnes, and Alston have nine MLS caps combined), Reis is among the best in the league, and has stymied Angel during the Red Bull's MLS career (only one goal allowed in 317 minutes). Slight Advantage: New England

The Midfields:
Dane Richards, Luke Sassano, Sinisa Ubiparipovic, Juan Pietravallo and Khano Smith, vs. Wells Thompson, Shalrie Joseph, Jeff Larentowicz, and Sainey Nyassi. New York will miss Rojas, but be bouyed by the addition of longtime Rev Smith, who will add speed and attempt to hold up Nyassi. Ubiparipovic was far too tentative in the Seattle loss, and will need to step up his agressiveness to succeed in the attacking-mid role. As usual for the Revs, Joseph will dictate the pace. If Pietravallo is unable to handle him, New England will generate plenty of chances. Look for Piet to pick up his first yellow, and maybe his first red of the season. Advantage: New England

The Coaches:
New York's Juan Carlos Osorio rightly told his squad to throw last week's result "in the garbage," but without six starters, even a miracle worker may be hard pressed to deliver a victory. New England's Steve Nicol is an annual Coach of the Year candidate. The challenge will be getting his young defense to play with confidence on Angel. Advantage: New England

Ah, Red Bulls home openers. From the "Curse of Caricola" in '96 to the '05 monsoon, New York has had a history of poor weather and poorer results when opening the home campaign. Tomorrow's weather calls for a low of 45 degrees and a 90 percent chance of rain. So much for a sizeable crowd. Revs supporters always travel well and make lots of noise at the Swamp. Both these teams play on turf, so any home field advantage may be negated. Advantage: Push

Prediction: New York will be hard pressed to deliver a win at home, but hopefully will exert a significant effort in trying to hold the Revs to a draw. Angel opens his account, but Joseph and Dube score in a 2-1 New England win.

Props to the Top

Despite the team's poor onfield performance vs. Seattle, RBNY Managing Director Erik Stover deserves huge props for publicly answering questions from his small but rabid fan base. Stover dispassionately dispatches those that would criticize the goofy "running of the bulls" street team promotion, while sharing the club's advertising plan for the year. Stover is engaged, respectful, and competent, something New York has missed in this role over the years (see A. Lalas).

Monday, March 23, 2009

RBNY at The Zone

Though they weren't "in the zone" last Thursday in Seattle, Red Bulls G Danny Cepero, D Mike Petke, and M Khano Smith will meet fans & sign autographs at the ESPNZone in Times Square tonight from 6:30-8p. Last year, Jozy Altidore arrived an hour late for his autograph session. Hopefully these guys will show up tonight, though they didn't at Qwest Field...

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Pacific Northwest Represent, Represent

With today's announcement that Vancouver, and soon Portland, Oregon will be joining MLS in 2011, the Pacific coast clubs will soon be majority in the league. In two years' time, one-third of the league's 18 teams will be in the Pacific Time zone: Vancouver, Portland, Seattle, San Jose, Los Angeles, and Chivas USA. Fans in the East can anticipate many a late night watching their clubs play out West.

What will an 18-team MLS look like?

Consider FC Dallas heading Eastward for two nine-team conferences:

DC United
FC Dallas
Kansas City
New England
New York
Toronto FC

Chivas USA
Los Angeles
Real Salt Lake
San Jose

Pity St. Louis, who had tried valiantly to shore up their finances over the last year, including added Albert Pujols and Anhueser-Busch to the fold. One would think St. Loo will be a lock for club #19, should that happen for 2012, as Don Garber hinted in today's Vancouver press conference.