Thursday, September 30, 2010

CCL Matchday 5

There's one more match left for the CONCACAF Champions League competitors, but it's pretty clear what's going to happen. Real Salt Lake is guaranteed to go through and will be playing Cruz Azul at home for the right to see who finishes first in Group A. Columbus Crew would need a TON of bad luck in order to not get through Group B, but will likely finish second. Toronto FC and Seattle Sounders will be playing their last CCL games October 19th as both sides have been eliminated.

Toronto FC 1 - 1 Real Salt Lake

Toronto FC and Real Salt Lake started the week with a contest at BMO Field. Both teams rolled out strong lineups as RSL was fighting to clinch a spot in the knockout stages and TFC was just trying to stay alive. There were a few first teamers missing (Chad Barrett, Javi Morales, Stefan Frei) but you could tell each team was going for it.

TFC actually looked good this game, a big improvement from their first few games under Nick Dasovic, almost (dare I say) dominating the first half. Jacob Peterson scored a goal off a Howard-to-Landon type distribution from Toronto keeper Jon Conway to give the Reds a 1-0 lead at the break.

Javi Morales, who was subbed in at halftime, would get that goal back though with a beautiful free kick. The rest of the game was mostly RSL attacking and TFC defending, but Jon Conway almost gave Salt Lake the win in the 94th minute with what would have been one of the most embarrassing own goals of all time

Municipal 2 - 1 Columbus Crew

I'm not sure I understand Robert Warzycha's strategy here. He had a chance to clinch a spot in the knockout stages with a tie, but left starters William Hesmer, Chad Marshall, Brian Carroll, Guillermo Barros Schelotto, Emmanuel Ekpo, Danny O'Rourke, Frankie Hejduk and Emilio Renteria at home. Municipal took advantage and won the game, moving only 1 point back of Columbus in the standings.

Now yes, Municipal does have to travel to Santos Laguna (the group leader) next while Columbus goes to Joe Public (the bottom of the group), but why even put yourself in that position? Why risk not going through by keeping 8 of your best players out of the lineup? Resting them for a match against a San Jose Earthquakes that also played a midweek game seems like an iffy excuse at best.

Seattle Sounders 2 - 0 Marathon

The Sounders, on the other hand, had all the reason in the world to send out a young lineup and they did. And, for the second straight game, the kids played really well when given the chance.

Seattle started
G: Kevin Boss
D: Taylor Graham, Tyrone Marshall, Tyson Wahl, Zach Scott
M: David Estrada, Alvaro Fernandez, Miguel Montano, Michael Seamon
F: Roger Levesque (ugh), Mike Fucito

and looked like they had always played with them. Fucito scored both goals, giving him 3 in 178 minutes of CCL play. Good work by the Harvard man who was injured all of last season. Seattle can't go through, but they played with pride and may have knocked Marathon out of the quarterfinals.

The only weird part was seeing Qwest Field with only 12,000 fans in it. Hopefully that doesn't become a regular occurrence.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Contenders' Schedules: 9/28

A little change to the Contenders' Schedules post this time, given that the 8 playoff teams are all but locked up now. Instead, this post will focus on the race for the Supporters' Shield, and one of MLS's automatic births into the CONCACAF Champions League.

As always, huge thanks go out to harper983 at the twoplustwo forums for putting this information together.

1st: Los Angeles Galaxy (50 pts): @CHV, @PHI, COL, FCD
Upcoming Teams Avg. PPG: 1.35
Max Points: 62

2nd: Real Salt Lake (48 pts): @NE, @NY, FCD, @COL
Upcoming Teams Avg. PPG: 1.5
Max Points: 60

3rd: FC Dallas (46 pts): CHI, COL, @RSL, @LA
Upcoming Teams Avg. PPG: 1.6
Max Points: 58

4th: Columbus Crew (45 pts): SJ, @CHI, @TFC, PHI
Upcoming Teams Avg. PPG: 1.24
Max Points: 57

5th: New York Red Bulls (44 pts): KCW, RSL, @PHI, NE
Upcoming Teams Avg. PPG: 1.31
Max Points: 56

6th: San Jose Earthquakes (39 pts): CHI, @CLB, @DCU, HOU, CHV, @KCW
Upcoming Teams Avg. PPG: 1.14
Max Points: 57

Monday, September 27, 2010

And Then There Were 8: Weekly Update

Well damn. I was kinda hoping for at least one bit of an interesting playoff race down the stretch. However, with 4 games to go for most teams that's pretty much out the window since San Jose and Seattle handled their business while TFC, Kansas City, and Chicago Fire all choked.

Now it looks like our only fireworks will be who wins the individual titles. Scoring champ looked locked up when Buddle was on fire early in the year, but not much has happened for him since then and Juan Pablo Angel, Chris Wondolowski, Dwayne De Rosario and Sebastien Le Toux are all within 2 goals of him. Landon's still the clear MVP favorite, but Le Toux, Montero, and Ferreira are going to get votes. Andy Najar is making a late charge for Rookie of the Year but Danny Mwanga and Tim Ream are also playing well.

That's what we have to look forward to now.

Game Reports

The national FSC game this week saw Real Salt Lake tie Colorado Rapids 1-1 at home. Colorado was without Omar Cummings, their best attacking option, and RSL started with a couple of their big name players (Kyle Beckerman, Andy Williams, Will Johnson) on the bench after a big midweek game in Panama. However, RSL dominated this game; not that you could tell from the scoreline. They peppered the Colorado goal for the last 30 minutes, including have a penalty call reversed for reasons I haven't seen explained anywhere. RSL got the goal they deserved to earn a result in the 92nd minute, but I still think they came away shortchanged.

Now for the three games that pretty much locked up the playoff picture:

Oh Toronto, you're such a disaster right now. A Chris Wondolowski hat trick (goal 1, goal 2, goal 3) led San Jose Earthquakes to a 3-2 victory over Toronto FC at BMO Field. The only fun things worth pointing out here were Mista once again proving his worthlessness (word?) by missing an unmarked header and DeRo's check writing celebration that apparently came about because he feels underpaid. I'm not going to disagree with him, not when he's the best player on a team with Mista and de Guzman making $1 million and $1.7 million respectively. But this wasn't the right time to make a statement man, you're better than that.

Seattle Sounders at Chicago Fire may have seemed like a boring game, with Nkufo's deflected goal in the 88th minute being the only scoring as Seattle won 1-0. But there was actually great action and it took some acrobatic saves by Keller and Johnson to keep the score down. For anyone who wasn't quite sure how seriously Seattle was taking CCL, they changed all 11 starters between the midweek game in Monterrey and this MLS league match against a team making a run for the playoffs. Sean Johnson did have his first "OMG!!" mistake I can remember this game when he came out too far and almost gave up a goal to Steve Zakuani who pulled it just past a wide open goal.

FC Dallas looked like FC Dallas again, beating down a hot Kansas City Wizards team 3-1 in KC. They even pulled this off without king of the wing Brek Shea, who was serving the second game of his suspension after a terrible foul against New York. Jeff Cunningham tacked on the last goal in the 82nd minute, giving him 10 for the season and 131 for his career, just one shy of tying Jaime Moreno for the most all time. Dallas's next two games are at home, so hopefully he can meet and surpass that mark in front of friendly fans.

Other games:

In a match that used to be a lot more interesting the past few years, Houston Dynamo went on the road to DC United and came away 3-1 winners. The thing really worth talking about here in Andy Najar, who may have just played his best game as a professional. Najar was all over the place, making dangerous runs, taking on defenders, and basically supplying all of DC's offense. His goal was a thing of beauty from a 17 year old (minus the first touch). Alas, it never seems to be enough for a DC team that just leaks goals.

Ale Moreno, Fred, and Le Toux did the scoring as Philadelphia Union played host to Chivas USA and won 3-0. This team is closing out the season very strong (3-1-1 in their last 5) and looks ready to put together a very competitive 2011 campaign. And Brad Knighton. Damn, son. That slamming sound you heard is the door closing on Chris Seitz's hopes to regain his starter's spot. Chivas, on the other hand, has some serious issues that need fixing. Like figuring out what kind of team they are and how they're going to play.

Columbus Crew scored a pair on goals in the second half to come back and tie New England Revolution 2-2 in Foxborough. Even with the point, this Crew team still hasn't looked good lately, except in CCL games strangely enough. New York is only 1 point back for first place in the East right now, and I'd lean towards them taking over that spot before it's all said and done.

Random Thoughts

CCL games this week
9/28 8pm - Real Salt Lake @ Toronto FC
9/29 10pm - Columbus @ Municipal
9/29 10pm - Marathon @ Seattle

A big part of me wants to see TFC win at home so that RSL can then beat Cruz Azul at home next and two MLS teams can move on from Group A. I don't think it happens though. Toronto's a mess right now and RSL is playing as well as any team in MLS at the moment.

Columbus sits in first place right now with two road games left against Municipal and Joe Public. Winning this week puts them in great position to go through in 1st place from group B.

All Seattle can do at this point is play spoiler. Marathon and Saprissa tied at 6 points with games at Seattle and home vs Monterrey left. Let's see what happens.


MLS Elo Ratings
1,585.07 - Real Salt Lake
1,570.73 - FC Dallas
1,561.00 - Los Angeles Galaxy
1,531.94 - Columbus Crew
1,528.90 - New York Red Bulls
1,528.47 - Seattle Sounders
1,520.90 - Colorado Rapids
1,506.24 - San Jose Earthquakes
1,489.88 - Kansas City Wizards
1,480.32 - Chicago Fire
1,466.98 - Philadelphia Union
1,464.39 - Toronto FC
1,463.82 - Houston Dynamo
1,455.01 - Chivas USA
1,443.32 - New England Revolution
1,403.03 - DC United

Saturday, September 25, 2010

NY/LA: What We Learned

New York Red Bulls looked great in a 2-0 victory at Los Angeles Galaxy. Not necessarily "great" as in passing the ball around, holding possession, and playing beautiful soccer. More "great" as in they created a bunch of chances and really didn't let LA get anything. There's been a ton written about the action in this game on every blog out there, so I'm going to focus on what we learned.


Los Angeles: LA does not have a lot of depth in their central defense. They were missing both Omar Gonzalez and Gregg Berhalter, and had to start two players (Yohance Marshall and Leonardo) with 10 games of MLS experience combined. That killed them. I'm not saying Omar or Berhalter would've prevented the two goals, although Marshall has some responsibility for both, but it changed the way LA had to play.

New York: Holy crap, Red Bulls looked great. There plan was a simple one: clog the middle, let the Galaxy work (very) wide on the flanks, and blanket anyone who tries to get on the end of a cross. It worked brilliantly, mostly thanks to Tim Ream being a giant in the middle.


Los Angeles: Even without NY's great defense in the middle of the field, LA looked lost on offense. David Beckham seems to roam the field too much, Landon had to come get the ball way too often with his back to the goal (not his forte by any means) and there was just generally a lot of trouble linking up between players. I know that Beckham is a great MLS player and you have to have him out there, but I don't think he helped his team at all this game.

New York: I'm hesitant to say we learned much about the New York attack because of the defender situation for LA. However, I will say that Dane Richards is still playing extremely well and Ballouchy has integrated himself into the team very quickly. I'm still not sure how NY is going to line up when everyone's healthy, but it's nice that they have a couple very good options.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Fall 2010 U-17 Residency Program

US Soccer released the latest class of U-17's who will be headed to the residency program in Bradenton, FL.

Here's the list of young guns whose names you should file away for 2018.

Wade Hamilton (Arsenal FC; Murietta, Calif.)
Jake McGuire (Chivas USA; Chino, Calif.)
Kendall McIntosh (Mustang Academy; Santa Rosa, Calif.)
Fernando Pina (Houston Dynamo; Houston, Texas)

Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas; Plano, Texas)
Russell Canouse (NY Red Bulls; Lancaster, Pa.)
Mobi Fehr (Tokyo Verdy 1969; Tokyo, Japan)
Trevor Haberkorn (Solar Chelsea Academy; Roanoke, Texas)
Luis Martir (Chivas de Guadalajara; Los Angeles, Calif.)
Alessandro Mion (Kendall SC; Miami, Fla.)
Cole Nagy (Real Salt Lake-AZ; Scottsdale, Ariz.)
Miguel Polley (Derby County Wolves; West Bloomfield, Mich.)
Tarik Salkicic (Strictly Soccer; Pinellas Park, Fla.)
Nathan Smith (Cal Odyssey; Clovis, Calif.)
Andrew Souders (Crew Soccer Academy; Amherst, Ohio)
Danny Zaid (Camp Elite Guatemala; Guatemala City)

Ricardo Aldape (Lemont Raiders; Chicago Heights, Ill.)
Joe Amon (South Carolina United FC; Summerville, S.C.)
Marco Delgado (Cosmo Academy West; Glendora, Calif.)
Ruben Duran (Las Vegas Premier; Las Vegas, Nev.)
Patrick Foss (D.C. United; South Riding, Va.)
Alejandro Guido (Aztecs Premier; Chula Vista, Calif.)
Jared Hegardt (Notts Forest FC; San Diego, Calif.)
Ryan Masch (De Anza Force; San Jose, Calif.)
Nico Melo (Florida Rush; Kissimmee, Fla.)
Antonio Murillo (Neusport; Las Vegas, Nev.)
Adam Najem (NY Red Bulls; Clifton, N.J.)
Marc Pelosi (De Anza Force; Sunnyvale, Calif.)
Esteban Rodriguez (Cosmos Academy West; Palmdale, Calif.)
Dillon Serna (Colorado Rapids; Brighton, Colo.)
Colton Storm (HMMS Eagle FC; Mechanicsburg, Pa.)

Paul Arriola (Arsenal FC; Chula Vista, Calif.)
Kevin De La Torre (Chivas USA; Winchester, Calif.)
Daniel Flores (Cal Odyssey; Fresno, Calif.)
Kellen Gulley (MS Chicago Fire Juniors; Clinton, Miss.)
Edwin Luna (P.A.C. Tigres; San Jose, Calif.)
Alex Muyl (Cosmos Academy East; New York, N.Y.)
Andrew Oliver (Westside United; Indianapolis, Ind.)
Mario Rodriguez (Central Aztecs; North Hollywood, Calif.)
Cole Seiler (Anderson, S.C.; CESA)

11 of the 40 players are coming from MLS youth programs. I'm not sure if that's a good thing because it shows that the academies are finding and growing good players or a bad thing because they think they'll do better going to the residency program than staying at home. Either way, it's nice to see so many young kids with experience in the programs of professional teams.

Also here is a Google Map I put together showing where they're all from.

Blue: Goalies
Green: Defenders
Yellow: Midfielders
Red: Forwards

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Those Other Games Last Night

As promised, let's talk about about those MLS games last night. I'm sure that the audiences watching were pretty small considering that both games were going on at the exact same time as the two CCL games involving MLS teams (really great scheduling there) but there was still plenty of drama with both games changing results on goals in extra time.

New England Revolution nearly ended FC Dallas's undefeated streak until Jeff Cunningham scored with 10 seconds of extra time left. The only problem is that Cunningham was pretty clearly offside and the official missed it. They say it's better to be lucky than good sometimes, right?

David Ferreira  put in a great effort for FC Dallas, even if he did miss his first penalty of the game, and should be given most of the praise for them coming back from 0-2 down to tie. He earned two penalties, made one of them, and set up Cunningham (who was offside) for the final goal. FC Dallas as a whole didn't play well, and can't afford a performance like this in the playoffs, but their star wasn't going to let them lose this game.

In the second game Kansas City Wizards rallied twice from two goals down to beat the Houston Dynamo 4-3. For a while it looked liked Kansas City, who has been the hottest team in the league lately, would blow their playoff chances with a loss to the not-what-they-used-to-be Houston Dynamo. Luckily Kei Kamara kept up his great season with his 10th goal of the year, Pat Onstad executed one of the worst goal kicks of all time to give Teal Bunbury a goal, and then Good Old Josh Wolff followed up and Adrian Serioux own goal with a diving header in the 96th minute for the win.

This was a huge win for Kansas City who remains right in the thick of the playoff race now. Also, Michael Harrington played really well for them at the right back position. This young kid had a great rookie season in 2007 but struggled with injuries last year. He's rebounded well this year, however, and with no great options at the right back position for the national team going forward may be a player to keep an eye on if he keeps improving.

2 More CCL Road Games

Another pair of CONCACAF Champion League games for MLS teams tonight (and a pair of league games, but we'll get to those in a later post). This time both were on the road as Seattle Sounders went down to play at Monterrey and Real Salt Lake looked to move to the top of group A on their trip down to Arabe Unido.

Seattle showed up to their game as most of us expected; starting players like Miguel Montano, Michael Fucito, Terry Boss, etc. They are focused on their MLS and US Open Cup campaigns, as they should be. The only issue: no one told these subs they weren't supposed to be good enough.

Seattle came out strong, scoring 2 goals in the first half including one by Michael Fucito in the 44th that seemed to really take the spirit out of Monterrey heading in to halftime. However, if we've learned anything about MLS teams in Mexico it's that no 2-0 lead is safe.

The Sounders did well through the first 30 minutes of the second half, playing strong defense and attacking when they got the chance. It was a 4 minute spell of awful that doomed them. When I say awful, I mean AWFUL. Like, Awful Plastic Surgery awful.

If you were flipping back and forth between the game and some other channel it wouldn't have taken more than a commercial break. Seriously, you could've left Modern Family, watched Seattle squander their lead and fall behind, and then get back without missing a second of Sofia Vergara.

The collapse was highlighted by a trio of awful plays. First Zach Scott was about as lazy as possible, standing on the endline 20 yards from the action and allowing Aldo De Nigris to stay onside and tap in a rebound off of Terry Boss for the first goal. Chilean striker Humberto Suazo scored the second goal in what can only be described as "a total defensive breakdown."

Then came the real coup-de-grace. It started with an unbelievably poor decision by a midfielder (David Estrada, I believe) to head the ball 25 yards backwards under no pressure. That godawful "pass" allowed Suazo to run on and take the ball with Tyrone Marshall a step behind. Marshall actually managed to close him down and start pushing him out wide, but then Terry Boss came sliding in out of nowhere and took out Suazo with a stupid and reckless challenge that earned the hosts a penalty.

And that was that. 4 minutes, 3 goals, and 0 points for the Sounders.

Real Salt Lake did better, taking advantage of a weaker opponent and coming out 3-2 victors. With this win they move to first place in Group A and I would consider them the odds-on favorite to win the group. Well done, RSL. Thank you for playing 90 minutes of soccer to win a game.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

4 Outta 6 Ain't Bad; It's Actually Really Damn Good

Two very strong results for MLS teams tonight in CONCACAF Champions League play tonight. It's always nice to play against the top 2 teams in the current Mexican Apertura and come away with a win and a tie.

The early game saw Columbus Crew beat Santos Laguna 1-0 at home to move to the top of Group B with 9 points. A goal by Andres Mendoza in the 87th minute was exactly what the Crew needed. Four games in and Columbus has done what they needed to do at home, hold serve and earn 9 points. They still have games @ Municipal and @ Joe Public to go, but they control their destiny to get through this competition in first.

The Crew didn't put out their best lineup possible, resting Hesmer, Duka, Lenhart, Garey, and Schelotto, but still managed to create a lot of dangerous chances and really take the game to a Santos team currently sitting second in the Mexican Apertura. It was a far cry from their last two league matches which saw them beaten by a combined score of 7-1.

In the late game Toronto FC traveled down to Mexico City and tied Cruz Azul 0-0. Like I said in the weekend wrap-up though, don't get too excited TFC fans. Cruz Azul controlled most of the match but Toronto defended well enough to not allow a goal even though they didn't create a whole lot on the attack themselves.

Truthfully, this result is probably better for Real Salt Lake than for Toronto FC though. Unfortunately I think their 2-0 loss in Panama is going to doom TFC to missing out on the knock-out stage, even if they win out and get to 10 points. They're 9 goals behind Cruz Azul on goal differential right now, and I just don't see how they can make that up. This result does appear to make RSL the favorite to win the group, assuming they take care of business against Arabe Unido tomorrow night.

On a separate note, Cruz Azul hasn't looked that good in either home match against MLS teams. They did beat RSL 5-4 in an incredibly fun game to watch, but I think 3 (maybe 4) of their 5 goals took deflections off of RSL defenders to beat Nick Rimando. That's a lot of luck to eke out 3 points. This time around they outplayed Toronto, but couldn't find the back of the net, or really get great chances despite the possession advantage.

It would be pretty awesome if they lost to Arabe Unido at home since that would open the door for 2 MLS teams getting out of the group, but even with their so-so play I don't think that happens.

EDIT: Not shockingly, I'm an idiot. So it turns out first tie-breaker is head-to-head so Toronto actually has a decent chance of getting through if they can get to 10 points. They'll still need to beat RSL at BMO Field and have RSL to win at home (something their very good at lately) against Cruz Azul. But if Toronto and Cruz Azul both end on 10 points, Toronto gets the nod.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Contenders Schedules: 9/20

The latest update from the always awesome harper983 on the twoplustwo forums.

Chivas USA has been not so ceremoniously dropped from his list of contenders after their loss at home to Kansas City.

Kansas City, Chicago Fire, and Toronto FC all have their shots about both San Jose Earthquakes and Seattle Sounders in the next few weeks. If there is going to be any change in the standings, at least the teams fighting to get in know they'll be able to affect both themselves and the teams ahead of them.

1. Los Angeles Galaxy (50 points, W-1): NYRB, @CHV, @PHI, COL, FCD
Upcoming Teams Avg. PPG: 1.4

2. Real Salt Lake (47 points, W-2): COL, @NE, @NYRB, FCD, @COL
Upcoming Teams Avg. PPG: 1.5

3. Columbus Crew (44 points, E-1): @NE, SJ, @CHI, @TFC, PHI
Upcoming Teams Avg. PPG: 1.19

4. FC Dallas (42 points, W-3): NE, @KC, CHI, COL, @RSL, @LAG
Upcoming Teams Avg. PPG: 1.49

5. New York Red Bulls (41 points, E-2): @LAG, KC, RSL, @PHI, NE
Upcoming Teams Avg. PPG: 1.45

6. Colorado Rapids (37 points, W-4): @RSL, PHI, DCU, @FCD, @LAG, RSL
Upcoming Teams Avg. PPG: 1.54

7. San Jose Earthquakes (36 points, E-3): @TFC, CHI, @CLB, @DCU, HOU, CHV, @KC
Upcoming Teams Avg. PPG: 1.17

8. Seattle Sounders (36 points, E-4): @CHI, TFC, @KC, CHV, @HOU
Upcoming Teams Avg. PPG: 1.14

----Playoff Cutoff----

9. Toronto FC (31 points): SJ, @SEA, @CHV, CLB, @DCU
Upcoming Teams Avg. PPG: 1.3

10. Kansas City Wizards (30 points): HOU, FCD, @NYRB, SEA, @CHI, @NE, SJ
Upcoming Teams Avg. PPG: 1.36

11. Chicago Fire (26 points): SEA, @SJ, @FCD, CLB, KC, DCU, @CHV
Upcoming Teams Avg. PPG: 1.37

Another One Bites The Dust: Weekly Update

You can almost see the goat frowning in this Chivas USA logo. Sorry Chivas fans, but your season is officially over. I'm calling it. After a 2-0 loss at home to a suddenly quite dangerous Kansas City team you sit 11 points out of 8th place with 1 game in hand. Any long shot hopes you had of playoff glory are gone.

And on that cheery note, on to the games this weekend!

Game Reports

Let's start this off with the biggest shocker of the weekend; Seattle Sounders absolutely destroying Columbus Crew 4-0, in Columbus no less. Blaise Nkufo got the scoring started early, poaching a goal off a corner kick in the 4th minute. Arlo White was pretty spot on when he said, "that'll work wonders for his confidence." because Nkufo banged in two more during the game to earn himself a hat trick. Quite the way to open up your account in MLS, good sir. As usual, Seattle terrorized the wings with Nyassi and Zakuani just blowing past Columbus's defenders time and time again, including earning a penalty that Nathan Sturgis (really?! Nathan Sturgis?!) took care of. Don't look now, but Columbus has been absolutely dominated in their last two league matches.

Hey, guess what? Real Salt Lake still didn't lose at home. This time Chicago Fire was the victim as they went down 1-0 to a team that is undefeated in 23 straight league matches at home. Alvaro Saborio took care of the scoring on a penalty in the 45th minute after sending Ned Grabavoy through with a great ball to get in on goal before being wrestled down by Wilman Conde. RSL had plenty of other chances to increase their lead, but Sean Johnson continued to do what Sean Johnson does; block shots.

Toronto FC went on the road and got a 2-1 victory at Houston Dynamo. Don't go getting too excited though, TFC fans. This win came down to two moments of individual brilliance from Dwayne De Rosario, scoring on a pair of set pieces from almost identical locations. There wasn't much there to make anyone think that Toronto is suddenly playing better soccer after getting rid of Preki and Mo Johnston.

De Ro made an early case for clutch performer of the week, but Landon Donovan just wiped that off the map. Los Angeles Galaxy looked to be in trouble down 1-0 in the 80th minute to DC United, the worst team in MLS, thanks to an Andy Najar tally. Landon refused to let his team lose though, adding a pair of goals on great individual efforts to maintain LA's place atop the MLS standings.

Colorado Rapids got another 3-0 win, their third in four games, this time against New England Revolution. Each of their dynamic forward pair got a goal, with Rafa Marquez's least favorite player Wells Thompson adding the third, and new additions Brian Mullan and Mac Kandji seemed to slot in well with the rest of the group.

As mentioned in the intro to this post, Kansas City Wizards drove the nail into Chivas USA's coffin with a 2-0 win at the Home Depot Center. Kei Kamara and Teal Bunbury (the future maybe-Canadian, maybe-American international) provided the scoring.

Random Thoughts

This Friday should feature one of the most entertaining MLS games of the season as New York travels across the country to face LA Galaxy. It's very likely that 5 DP's, and the 3 biggest names in MLS, will feature in a game between the #1 team in the west and the #2 team in the east. The game will be nationally televised on ESPN2, so no excuses for not watching.

If the playoffs started right now Real Salt Lake and FC Dallas would be matched up against each other. Assuming that happens, every soccer fan in America needs to make a point to watch those games as they should be incredible.

Seattle coach Sigi Schmid was candid this week about focusing on "squad selection" for the remaining CCL games. That translates to, "we're going to rest our good players to make sure we do well in league play and the US Open Cup." Smart man, that Sigi.

CCL games this week
9/21 8pm: Columbus Crew vs. Santos Laguna
9/21 10pm: Toronto FC @ Cruz Azul
9/22 8pm: Real Salt Lake @ Arabe Unido
9/22 8pm: Seattle Sounders @ Monterrey


MLS Elo Ratings
1,588.22 - Real Salt Lake
1,576.80 - Los Angeles Galaxy
1,562.59 - FC Dallas
1,532.02 - Columbus Crew
1,519.81 - Seattle Sounders
1,517.75 - Colorado Rapids
1,513.10 - New York Red Bulls
1,497.45 - San Jose Earthquakes
1,497.17 - Kansas City Wizards
1,488.98 - Chicago Fire
1,473.18 - Toronto FC
1,465.29 - Chivas USA
1,456.70 - Philadelphia Union
1,455.86 - Houston Dynamo
1,439.21 - New England Revolution
1,415.88 - DC United

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Still The Best

I'll be honest. I've been as guilty as anyone else; promoting the MVP credentials of players like Fredy Montero (10 goals, 9 assists), Sebastien Le Toux (11 goals, 10 assists), and even guys like Javi Morales who don't stuff the stat sheet but make a HUGE difference for their team.

The fact of the matter though is that no player in MLS is better or more important to his team than Landon Donovan. If you have any real doubt as to why, just go watch the last 10 minutes of the most recent game against DC United.  Down 1-nil in the 80th minute and facing an extremely embarrassing loss at home to the worst team in the league, Donovan refused to let his team lose. First, single-handedly taking the ball away from the DC defense, rounding the keeper and slotting one home for the tie. And then executing a beautiful header after making an unmarked run to give LA the 2-1 victory.

While he has always been a top goal scoring threat despite his midfield position, averaging nearly a goal every other game, this year he has taken it upon himself to also become the best distributor in Major League Soccer. Through only 19 games he has a career high 14 assists, and continues to terrorize MLS defenses with his deft passing.

The only thing that has seemed to slow Donovan down this year has been Bruce Arena moving him around the field. Yeah, he's the best player on the pitch any time he suits up in MLS and he can have an impact from any midfield position or as a withdrawn striker. But he's at his best on the right wing, as we saw early this year during his loan at Everton and again with the USMNT in South Africa.

If you go back and look at the start of the season, when LA was nearly unbeatable, you'll see Donovan spending most of his time on the right flank with rookie Michael Stephens lining up on the left. However, over the past couple months you started to see him drift around the field, lining up on the left side or as an attacking mid. Now in the past few games you've seen Landon moved back to the right side with Alex Cazumba taking over on the left and LA has started to look as dangerous as they did early in the year.

Playing Landon on the right wing allows him to pressure defenses with his speed, distribute the ball into the box with his great crosses, and hold back opposing teams' full backs from pressing forward on the attack for fear that Landon will get behind them. Also, his presence on the wing and status as one of the fittest players in the league allows the LA right backs to push forward into attack knowing that they have a player like Donovan to cover who is always ready, willing, and able to sprint back on defense and help stop the counter attack.

It's human nature to try and find something first. We all want to identify who will be the next dominant player in MLS or who is going to be the big star that moves abroad. But we need to be honest with ourselves. This is Landon's league, the rest of us are just along for the ride.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Spend Less, Win More has an article up where Garth Lagerwey, Real Salt Lake's vice president and general manager, talks about how teams with designated players are not designed for success in the CONCACAF Champions League.

The arguments are twofold. First is the obvious point that spending so much of your salary cap on a small number of players damages a team's depth, which is critical when MLS does not seem to think it necessary to schedule around these games. A team like New York with 3 DPs is locking up 40% of their salary cap on 12% of their roster. RSL's top three paid players account for 27% of the salary cap, giving the team about $400,000 more to spend on filling out the roster.

The second point is a little less obvious, but makes a lot of sense after you hear it. Designated players are much more likely to be older guys; the average ages of the 8 new DPs brought in this season is 30 years old. It's a lot tougher on older players to play 3 games in 8 days with a few thousand miles of travel between games like you'll get traveling to Central America to play.

When you look at the two most successful MLS teams in CCL play so far this year, the Columbus Crew and Real Salt Lake, it sure seems possible that while DPs can get your team deep in the MLS Cup Playoffs, they may not be the way to go for CCL glory.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Two Tales of Squad Selection

First, it takes a special kind of person to work dual alliteration into a 5 word title. That's just the kind of quality (read: kitsch) you get out of me.

Columbus Crew and Seattle Sounders each played their third CCL game last night to very different results. Columbus hosted Joe Public and rolled to a 3-0 win, while Seattle went down to the monster's lair to play at Saprissa and came away 2-0 losers. There was one similarlity between these sides though: they both played a lot of reserves.

I've been very critical of MLS teams rolling out poor lineups for CCL games and US Open Cup games in the past but I am 100% behind both of these clubs.

Columbus was coming off a huge game against LA Galaxy last weekend with another tough contest against Seattle this Saturday looming ahead of them. Also, being at home against Joe Public was the easiest chance for Columbus to get 3 points they will see all tournament. If their reserves couldn't earn a win at home against a club that is already 11 points behind TT Pro League leaders Defense Force after only 10 games then they don't deserve to move forward in this competition.

Even as they played stifling defense on the Trinidadian team, the game was a little tense after the first half as Columbus failed to put away any of the chances they had created. You began to wonder how long Robert Warzycha would wait to bring in his offensive stars like Schelotto, Gaven, and Lenhart. Leandre Griffit took care of those worries two minutes into the second half though, and Columbus was able to give their stars a rest and still enjoy a comfortable victory.

Seattle didn't go quite as deep into their bench, mostly because there was still a very small outside chance they could make it through the group. But it was clearly not a first team squad, as you can see by that bum Roger Levesque making an appearance.

My reasoning for liking Seattle's lineup is a bit different than Columbus. Seattle is sitting in the 8th and final playoff spot for MLS Cup with one of the easiest remaining schedules. Given that they had earned 0 points through two CCL games, it would be short-sighted to try and maximize points in a competition you have little-to-no chance of progressing in at the expense of potentially making a deep run in the MLS Cup Playoffs.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The News of the Day

Three big news stories in the past 24 hours or so as we ready for a couple CONCACAF Champions League games tonight.

1. Red Bulls trade Mac Kandji for Mehdi Ballouchy

NYRB seems like HUGE winners here given that Kandji was clearly not in the good graces of management. Ballouchy gives them the playmaker in the middle of the field that they had been lacking all year, and really fills in the one tiny hole they may have had in their attack.

A fun game to play now is "how will NYRB line up?" Their biggest weakness is at center back, so do they move Rafa Marquez back there in place of Carlos Mendez and let Ballouchy line up in front of Tony Tchani? Do they keep their backline the same and bring Ballouchy in for Tchani, even though he's been playing great lately?

Or what if something crazy happens? What if NY moves to a 3-5-2 that looks something like:


Rafa can provide cover to a 3 man back line and still help distribute the ball up into the midfield.

Now this is not to say that Colorado lost, necessarily. If Kandji plays like he can then adding him on the wing to an already potent Casey and Cummings pairing makes for one nasty attack.

2. Preki and Mo Johnston fired by Toronto FC

In a move that most TFC fans seem somewhere between giddy and euphoric over, Preki and Mo Johnston will no longer be on the Toronto FC payroll. I think most people are more surprised that Mo managed to cash a paycheck for this long given how little progress they seem to have made in 5 years.

As for Preki, even after his great season at Chivas last year I wasn't too thrilled with him from after one of his early moves was to get rid of Sam Cronin. I understand that he and de Guzman play pretty much the same position, but you think you could find a way to put two of you best midfielders on the pitch. No, nevermind, we'll just stick with guys like Nick LaBrocca, Martin Saric, and Amadou Sanyang. That's working well.

3. MLS to move to 34 game schedule next year

This is the least surprising story, but a welcome one to see. With two more teams coming into the league MLS maintains an even number of team and can still operate under a full home-and-away season.

Remaining Schedule for the Contenders

First, a huge thanks to harper983 on the twoplustwo forums for putting this together.

Below are the all the MLS teams with any kind of realistic shot at the MLS Cup Playoffs this year including how many points they currently have, what their playoff position is, and who they play the rest of the season.

As you can see, the teams on the outside looking in have an especially tall order considering San Jose and Seattle, the 7th and 8th place teams, have 2 of the 3 easiest remaining schedules. Meanwhile, FC Dallas, New York and Colorado, 4th through 6th place respectively, have the three toughest remaining schedules so there could be some significant changes in the final playoff picture as far as who plays where, but probably not dealing with who gets in.

1. Los Angeles Galaxy (47 points, W-1): DCU, NY, @CHV, @PHI, COL, DAL
Upcoming Teams Avg. PPG: 1.30

2. Columbus Crew (44 points, E-1): SEA, @NE, SJ, @CHI, @TFC, PHI
Upcoming Teams Avg. PPG: 1.22

3. Real Salt Lake (44 points, W-2): CHI, COL, @NE, @NY, DAL, @COL
Upcoming Teams Avg. PPG: 1.44

4. FC Dallas (41 points, W-3): NY, NE, @KC, CHI, COL, @RSL, @LAG
Upcoming Teams Avg. PPG: 1.49

5. New York Red Bulls (40 points, E-2): @DAL, @LAG, KC, RSL, @PHI, NE
Upcoming Teams Avg. PPG: 1.49

6. Colorado Rapids (34 points, W-4): NE, @RSL, PHI, DCU, @DAL, @LAG, RSL
Upcoming Teams Avg. PPG: 1.47

7. San Jose Earthquakes (33 points, E-3): PHI, @TFC, CHI, @CLB, @DCU, HOU, CHV, @KC
Upcoming Teams Avg. PPG: 1.16

8. Seattle Sounders (33 points, E-4): @CLB, @CHI, TFC, @KC, CHV, @HOU
Upcoming Teams Avg. PPG: 1.25

----Playoff Cutoff----

9. Toronto FC (28 points): @HOU, SJ, @SEA, @CHV, CLB, @DCU
Upcoming Teams Avg. PPG: 1.26

10. Kansas City Wizards (27 points): @CHV, HOU, DAL, @NY, SEA, @CHI, @NE, SJ
Upcoming Teams Avg. PPG: 1.33

11. Chicago Fire (26 points): @RSL, SEA, @SJ, @DAL, CLB, KC, DCU, @CHV
Upcoming Teams Avg. PPG: 1.43

12. Chivas USA (25 points): KC, @PHI, LAG, TFC, @SEA, @SJ, CHI
Upcoming Teams Avg. PPG: 1.35

Monday, September 13, 2010

Soccer is Poetry: Weekly Roundup

Given the past week, I'm shortening the weekly update this week. Enjoy a haiku for each game.

I'm out of the hospital now though, so I'll be back to getting about a post a day out. I should be back in full force for this weekend though, so expect something better next week.

Game Reports

Chicago Fire 0 - 0 Toronto FC
Three stars return, not
enough to win. Two handballs
in the box not called.

Seattle Sounders 0 - 0 Real Salt Lake
Ends a draw because
Findley blows a penalty.
I know, how shocking.

Chivas USA 2 - 0 New England
That other LA
team has some life from a man
named Braunaldinho.

Toronto FC 0 - 1 DC United
DeRo posts it six
minutes in. But James does not
in the 81st.

New York Red Bulls 3 - 1 Colorado Rapids
Red Bulls keep winning,
even with Cummings' great goal.
Best team in the east?

Philadelphia Union 1 - 0 Chicago Fire
Knighton starts, no goals.
Except for le Toux, of course.
Is MORE MWANGA hurt?!?!

San Jose Earthquakes 0 - 0 FC Dallas
Two teams playing quite
well right now. Neither should be
upset with one point.

Los Angeles Galaxy 3 - 1 Columbus Crew
Beckham's back, and so
are the Galaxy. All is
right with the world now.

Random Thoughts

Just one possible reason why LA looked so good: Landon was playing on the right again finally. Having Juninho back probably helped a ton, but still, keep Landon on the right flank.

Toronto is out of the playoff race now. Hopefully they put all their effort into getting through CCL group stage.

Chicago, Kansas City, and MAYBE Chivas USA (given their run of form lately) are they only 3 teams that still have a shot at making the playoffs right now. I think the top 8 are pretty much set though.

CCL matches this week:
9/14 8pm - Columbus Crew v. Joe Public
9/14 10pm - Seattle Sounders @ Saprissa
9/15 10pm - Real Salt Lake v. Toronto FC


MLS Elo Ratings
1,584.23 - Real Salt Lake
1,573.78 - Los Angeles Galaxy
1,565.46 - FC Dallas
1,551.32 - Columbus Crew
1,510.23 - New York Red Bulls
1,509.89 - Colorado Rapids
1,500.51 - Seattle Sounders
1,492.97 - Chicago Fire
1,492.35 - San Jose Earthquakes
1,483.35 - Kansas City Wizards
1,479.11 - Chivas USA
1,465.18 - Houston Dynamo
1,463.86 - Toronto FC
1,461.79 - Philadelphia Union
1,447.07 - New England Revolution
1,418.90 - DC United

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Where Have You Been?!

Sorry guys, I know I've been MIA the past few days. I do have a great excuse though: I am in the hospital with a ruptured appendix.

I have a pretty sweet room setup and my laptop got dropped off today so I may try to write something up about tonight's Seattle/RSL game. No promises though, I'm still in a bit of pain since they won't remove the appendix until they drain the infection.

Just wanted to let you guys know I wasn't giving up on the site or anything. I will be back as soon as health allows.

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Jamaican Terror and Goalie Gaffes: Weekly Update

Let's be honest, it's a little hard to pay as much attention to MLS at this point in the season since it's that weird stretch where you kinda know who playoff teams will be but it's not an all out push quite yet and college and NFL football are starting up. That's what I'm here for though, quick hitting updates of what you may have missed while watching your team beat down some I-AA opponent (note: does not apply to Ole Miss fans).

Game Reports

As hot as the New York Red Bulls seemed to be these past few weeks, Real Salt Lake are still the champions and showed why with a 1-0 victory at home. Unfortunately, a game that could have been a spectacle of what MLS can offer was also the most affected by international matches as there were a combined 7 players (6 starters) missing from the two sides. Fabian Espindola's header in the 4th minute was the only shot that went in but both Greg Sutton and Nick Rimando made some great saves (mostly on headers, oddly enough) to keep their teams close. That shouldn't be taken to mean it was a close game though. RSL pretty clearly outplayed New York in this game, their defense basically made Henry disappear and he only got one shot, and they deserved all three points.

The other game that was significantly affected by the international date was Toronto FC visiting FC Dallas. Dallas took advantage of Toronto missing their best 3 players (de Rosario, de Guzman, Attakora) and won 1-0 behind Jeff Cunningham's 129th career goal. The game also featured a lot of young players for FC Dallas who probably have the most youth of any MLS team. They are going to have 7 players protected from the expansion draft for age/homegrown reasons (the most anyone else has is 3), including 3 who played last night (Guarda, Avila, Luna). Dallas was probably unlucky not to score another goal given all the breakouts they had in the last 10 minutes of the game too, nearly all of them involving my boy Brek whose motor just doesn't stop. One semi-positive for TFC: O'Brian White showed a little bit of the form that made me think he could score 7-10 goals this year. Oh well.

The most exciting game of the day was Chicago Fire hosting Los Angeles Galaxy and playing them to a 1-1 draw that needed all 90 minutes to get the scoring in. After Segares was rightly shown a red card in the 22nd minute Chicago seemed in pretty bad shape. Sean-Johnson-man-child continued to impress, however, stopping Landon's penalty. Granted it wasn't the best-taken penalty ever Landon goes right something like 80% of the time, but penalty stops down a man are always worth some praise. So do his other 7 saves, including one in extra time off a Sean Franklin volley that saved a point for Chicago. Both goals here came after the 88th minute. First, Collins John put home a free kick from just outside the corner of the box after Donovan Ricketts left the back post waaaay too open. Chicago probably thought they were set at that point, but a great header from Omar Gonzalez off a Landon corner tied the game in the 91st minute and left the game at 1-1.

Colorado Rapids continued to be a rude host with their second straight 3-0 victory at home, this time over Chivas USA. Omar Cummings always kinda flies under the radar (unless you're a Wire fan who recognizes how awesome his name is), but he's been a legit striker these past two seasons. He had the lead part in all three goals for Colorado, blasting a shot off Zach Thornton that Conor Casey knocked home on the rebound, making Ante Jazic look like an And-1 victim turning him twice before rifling a low shot far post, and then beating the entire Chivas backline to a ball and slotting it home below Thornton. The cheese stands alone. Oh, indeed.

The New England Revolution rode a great 11 minute stretch to beat Seattle Sounders 3-1. Steve Zakuani did his part, maintaining his great form from the US Open Cup game and scoring his 8th goal of the season in the 59th minute. Seattle's defense disappeared after that though, allowing goals in the 70th (Chris Tierney), 73rd (Marko Perovic) and 81st (Kheli Dube) minutes to a New England team that hasn't scored that many goals since May. Dube earned his goal though, with a great strike off the outside of his foot

Geovanni got his first start for San Jose Earthquakes and showed why he's getting DP money, leading the team to a 2-1 victory at Houston Dynamo. Geovanni set up the first goal with a wonderful cross to Khari Stephenson that he easy put past Pat Onstad, and then added his own for his first MLS tally after running on to a loose ball in the box in the 64th minute. The Dynamo had a little bit of hope after a great individual effort by Brian Mullan down the right flank led to a goal headed in by Brad Davis in first half stoppage time. Unfortunately for the Dynamo they couldn't finish any of their other chances, and there were many that former Earthquake Cam Weaver has sole blame for. The worst part about this game: I believe it was the first on a lined football field this season. Ugh.

Columbus Crew ended their week how they started it, with a victory at DC United. This time it was just a 1-0 win, and that goal was due to a terrible whiff on an attempted clearance by 19 year old keeper Bill Hamid. I still have faith in him being a great goalie though, and here's why: that's not a mistake that comes from goal keeping skill. Yeah, he took a terrible touch and then couldn't volley the ball out with Schelotto bearing down on him. It was an amateur mistake to try the touch and then an embarrassment to miss the clearance. But he still has all the physical skills to succeed and, I think, better fundamentals than fellow young phenom Sean Johnson. Meanwhile, DC's attack kept to it's unimpressive ways, not forcing a single save out of Will Hesmer.

Finally, Philadelphia Union tied Kansas City Wizards 1-1. Yeah, Le Toux got his 10th goal of the season and Seitz was way out of position (shocking, right?) on Kansas City's goal, but that's not why you're really here. It's time for another MORE MWANGA update. Here are 3 highlights from the game:
  1. Assist to Le Toux 
  2. Skinning the full back and taking a rip
  3. Unbelievable skill after a bad first touch to keep possession, beat two defenders, and hit a streaking Justin Mapp in stride
SIGN THIS MAN UP!!! Seriously, what needs to happen to fast-track some US citizenship?

Random Thoughts

The Supporters' Shield race is wide open, with 3 teams within 1 point of each other and FC Dallas 4 points back with a game in hand on the other 3. It will be a super exciting race to the finish as each of these teams attempts to lock up home field advantage.

Mista may end up being one of the worst DP's in league history, like Denilson-and-Landin bad. Giving him a contract worth nearly a million dollars is mind boggling to me.

What's the record for fewest professional starts for a keeper before being called up to the USMNT since MLS started? Sean Johnson may break it. This kid is special.

I dare any Seattle fan to try to justify to me why Roger Levesque deserves MLS minutes. Just send this guy back to USL for Christ's sake.

Records and streaks for you to keep an eye on:
RSL hasn't lost at home in 22 matches.
Jeff Cunningham's 129 career goals leave him just 3 behind all-time leader Jaime Moreno.
FC Dallas hasn't allowed more than 1 goal in league play since April 22nd.


MLS Elo Ratings
1,584.20 - Real Salt Lake
1,565.40 - Los Angeles Galaxy
1,565.20 - FC Dallas
1,559.70 - Columbus Crew
1,519.00 - Colorado Rapids
1,502.00 - Chicago Fire
1,501.13 - New York Red Bulls
1,500.54 - Seattle Sounders
1,492.62 - San Jose Earthquakes
1,483.35 - Kansas City Wizards
1,472.03 - Toronto FC
1,471.04 - Chivas USA
1,465.18 - Houston Dynamo
1,455.17 - Philadelphia Union
1,455.14 - New England Revolution
1,408.33 - DC United

Saturday, September 4, 2010

MLS Internationals Today

Here is the full list of MLS players away with their national teams today, courtesy of the always awesome Climbing the Ladder.

First by country

5 - Canada
4 - USA U-20
3 - Jamaica
3 - The Gambia
2 - Costa Rica
2 - El Salvador
1 - Guatemala
1 - Mexico
1 - Montenegro
1 - Senegal
1 - Sierra Leone
1 - Venezuela

And then by team

Chicago Fire
Marco Pappa - Guatemala
Deris Umanzor - El Salvador

Chivas USA
Bryan de la Fuente - USA U-20
Osael Romero - El Salvador
Cesar Zamora - USA U-20

Columbus Crew
Emilio Renteria - Venezuela

DC United
Branko Boskovic - Montenegro
Dejan Jakovic - Canada

Houston Dynamo
Francisco Navas Cobo - USA U-20
Lovel Palmer - Jamaica

Kansas City Wizards
Kei Kamara - Sierra Leone

New England Revolution
Kenny Mansally - The Gambia
Sainey Nyassi - The Gambia

New York Red Bulls
Juan Agudelo - USA U-20
Bouna Coundoul - Senegal
Rafa Marquez - Mexico
Roy Miller - Costa Rica
Dane Richards - Jamaica

Real Salt Lake
Will Johnson - Canada
Alvaro Saborio - Costa Rica

San Jose Earthquakes
Ryan Johnson - Jamaica

Seattle Sounders
Sanna Nyassi - The Gambia

Toronto FC
Nana Attakora - Canada
Julian de Guzman - Canada
Dwayne De Rosario - Canada

Friday, September 3, 2010

Canada is Part of America, Right?

Along with all of the MLS fixtures, this weekend will feature a number of international friendlies. Now, we can argue the logic of having league games on the same day as a FIFA international date (you will notice that none of the big European leagues are playing this weekend) but instead let's focus on the good: there are a lot of MLS players getting called up to play with their national teams.

The usual countries will all be accounted for: a few players for Costa Rica, Rafa Marquez to Mexico, Dane Richards to Jamaica, etc. But the big issue is what's going on with Canada's national team. Now, I realize this is stretching the bounds of "This American Pitch" a little bit, but just go with me here, I am an eighth Canadian, after all.

Teal Bunbury, the 20 year old forward with Kansas City, grew up playing on Canadian youth teams. However, he is also eligible to play for the United States as his mother is American and he's apparently not ready to commit to a senior side. So far he's been very diplomatic about the refusal, insisting that it's due to maintaining playing time with his club side as a rookie during his interview with You aren’t going, but you have to be flattered that Canada are calling and indicating you are someone who could be in their plans.

Bunbury: It feels really good. As a 20-year-old, playing internationally is a great thing. I feel blessed and honored to be able to represent my family and represent my country. Some of the rumors out there are that you said no to Canada because you are thinking about the United States.

Bunbury: I would say right now that stuff really isn’t my mind. We have to ask: If it were between the two and both called you up, where would that leave you?

Bunbury: Honestly, right now it’s just time to focus on the Wizards.

There's a lot more in the link, so give it a look. It's worth pointing out, though, that at this point there is no reason to believe that he couldn't earn a spot on the USMNT. The only forward who has to be penciled in for every game right now is Jozy Altidore, at least until Charlie Davies gets healthy. If Bunbury can continue to grow as a player it's easy to see him making an impact with the Yanks.

That's not the only issue for Canada though. You see, Canada has two games in the next week, facing Peru on September 4th and Honduras September 7th. Three of the most important players for Canada's national team are Dwayne De Rosario, Julian De Guzman and Nana Attakora, who also happen to make up the backbone of Canada's lone top division squad, Toronto FC.

At the moment Toronto is in 9th place in MLS, 2 points out of their first playoff spot in club history, and with games on 9/4 at FC Dallas and 9/8 at Chicago. It appears that, while the three will play tomorrow against Peru, Canadian head coach Stephen Hart will release the trio for their game next Wednesday. Personally, I think that's a great decision.

There is always a contentious relationship between national teams and club teams when it comes to friendly dates. That relationship is even more strained when the club team is the most important club team in the country the players represent. If you want to stay in the good graces of everyone, I think you have to let the players return to their club and try to fight their way into a playoff spot.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Exciting Night, All Around

4 wrap-ups for you tonight. Whew.

First, SuperLiga:

New England was outclassed by Morelia and lost 2-1 in the SuperLiga finals. Revolution needed a couple great saves from Matt Reis (and a few from the post) to keep the game that close. Towards the last 25 minutes or so New England looked much better, but it was too little too late as they couldn't find a second goal to match Kevin Alston's in the 79th. I encourage you to check out the highlights though, if only to see Miguel Sabah's wonderstrike on the second goal.

Second, a friendly:

Philadelphia closed out their friendly schedule with a match against Chivas de Guadalajara. The Goats' attack was potent but backup goalie Brad Knighton was up to the task stopping all of Chivas's 8 shots on goal. Meanwhile, all it took was one deft touch from my boy Jack Mack to send the Illadelph to a 1-nil win at home over the Mexican giants. Enjoy these highlights, as they are much easier to watch than the last set.

Finally, 2 US Open Cup games:

First let me congratulate all four teams for rolling out first-team talent for these games. MLS Commission Don Garber stated at the SuperLiga match that he wanted MLS to take the Open Cup more seriously and hopefully this is a sign that other teams are thinking that as well. A chance to qualify for the CONCACAF Champions League and bring home a trophy to your fans should be something worth fighting for.

The Columbus Crew prevailed in the first game with a 2-1 win at DC United, a matchup that will be revisited in 3 days in MLS league play. United looked poised to make another Open Cup final, despite being a down a man after the 59th minute and restore some shine to an extremely disappointing season. However, an own goal off Marc Burch in the 89th minute tied the game at 1. The Crew would hold off a number of spirited counter-attacks by DC United and Guillermo Barros Schelotto's goal from the penalty spot in the 98th minute would be enough to earn them their first trip to the finals since 2002.

Seattle Sounders hosted Chivas USA in the second game, and summarily dispatched the visitors 3-1 off a pair of goals by Nate Jaqua and another by Fredy Montero. Jaqua is now tied for the golden boot of the 2010 US Open Cup with 5 goals scored.

I'm honestly not sure who to make MOTM for Seattle. Steve Zakuani was a monster on the left side, tracking the game endline to endline, wreaking havoc on the defense, and earning a number of the dozen or so corners Seattle enjoyed. But this game was also the prototypical example of "as Alonso goes, so goes Seattle."

I mean this as much more of a compliment than it will sound, but Osvaldo Alonso is a poor man's (ok, maybe a lower-middle-class man's) Rafa Marquez. He offers a ton of support to the defensive line tracking back and they all know they can trust him to distribute the ball and get the attack started after making a stop. It seemed like he was in on every challenge in the midfield tonight, with the best example came late in the game with him tracking down Justin Braun in the center circle and just taking the ball away from out of nowhere.

Things are all set for the final now on October 5th at Qwest Field. Complicating matters a little bit, both teams will have CCL games on September 29th and league games on October 2nd, but I think we can expect to see them roll out the big guns for a chance at some silverware.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

CONCACAF Blows It Again

I'm shocked (SHOCKED) to find that CONCACAF has made a terrible decision for changing their qualification process for the World Cup.

For those who don't know, previously there were two knockout stages to determine the 12 countries that would make it to group stage. Every country played at least one knockout stage game, with the top 13 getting byes to the second round. For the group stage, the top two teams from each of the three groups would progress on to the final group of 6, lovingly called The Hex. The Hex was a full home-and-away tournament with the top 3 teams qualifying for the World Cup.

Now, they will expand the group stage to 32 teams. There will initially be 8 groups of 4. The top two from each group will move on to 4 groups of 4. Again the top two from each group move on to 2 groups of 4. The winner of each group automatically qualifies for the World Cup and the two second place teams have a playoff for the third automatic qualifying spot.

So what sucks about this? It's not that there are more teams in it now. That's actually a good thing because it will give teams like the US more easy games, which means more opportunity to try out youngsters.

It's that, under this new format, it's highly likely that the US will never play Mexico in a meaningful WCQ match. Unless something drastic happens the two of us will remain as the best two CONCACAF squads meaning we will never be put in the same group.

I don't know about you, but I'm pretty disappointed to know that I will never be able to travel down to the Azteca and watch the USMNT play a game like the fans in the video below.