Monday, August 22, 2005
I can still learn things
Yesterday I had the opportunity to attend the Chivas USA - MetroStars game at Giants Stadium. A good crowd, a great game and a tough finish for las rayadas made for quite an enjoyable experience. Here's what I learned at the game.

• Chivas USA was as good as any team in the league in the first half with Ramón at the back. They transitioned from defense to offense in spectacular fashion and quickly had themselves in the counter-attack after every Metros foray. Juan Pablo Garcia was the catalyst in attack and Palencia came back to help in defense far more than I expected.

• In the second half, Chivas USA wasn't nearly as attacking oriented. I don't know if they were just shocked to have the lead but Garcia was gassed in about the 60th minute and the attack dwindled after that. He's going to be the key for getting the ball from defense to attack.

• Antonio Martinez on the left side had all sorts of room to run in but he kept running offsides or couldn't get anyone to serve him the ball. At least in the first half he could have beaten Jeff Parke no less than five times but couldn't time his runs to get the ball. He was begging for it.

• Palencia is the real deal. If he played all season (as I hope he will next year), he could easily have 20 goals. His shot from 20 yards was one most MLS strikers would have put 60 rows up behind the goal. His flick on the corner wasn't anything to scoff at, either.

• Metros benefitted from some iffy refereeing. My issue with the referee wasn't that he called the penalties ... it's that he wasn't consistent. Sometimes playing rough was let to play on while sometimes the slightest thing was a quick whistle. I learned that refereeing is not expressly controlled by MLS but that they don't have that much to work with.

• I learned Chivas USA is still overmatched on defense.

• I learned that Amado Guevara is one of three or four players in MLS who can take over a game by himself (which he did in the second half after being pretty invisible during the first half).

• I learned that goalkeepers still can't believe Guevara's going to shoot low and to the left EVERY TIME he takes a pk. Dive that way until he doesn't or something.

• I learned that I can get from my apartment on the upper west side, to the stadium and back in four hours. That's not bad (including the two hours for the game). I was out of the stadium at 8:15 last night and in my apartment by 9.

• I learned that Chivas USA will be a force next year.

• And, finally, I learned that no team needs its own home stadium more than the MetroStars. Good luck to 'em.
Tuesday, August 16, 2005
A question from the crowd...
There are thousands of threads on bigsoccer and similar message boards concerning the schedule that MLS plays. We should play over the summer! No, we should play in the winter! No, we should split our seasons and play spring and fall!

Here's my question to you:

Is it better to:

A) play during the day in August in Chicago (soon to be Bridgeview) where it is 95 degrees and 90% humidity and no one can move

or

B) play during a Saturday night in February in Chicago (soon to be Bridgeview) when it's 25 degrees with snow blowing and winds cutting through your skin.

Thoughts welcome.
Thursday, August 11, 2005
Playing the Real game...
Du Nord has a list of MLS players supposedly going to face Real Madrid on August 23rd. The catch? Each MLS team can only be tapped up for a max of two players. That said, here's the team I'd pick under the same situation. Keep in mind that I want to win and that Real will be pissed if we don't bring the stars on this 24-man squad (each team gets two picked to be fair).

Coaches
--
Steve Nicol (edit: I swear I didn't know this before I posted this)
Bob Bradley (so I can see how the Metros'd do under Mo)

Starters
--
GK
Joe Cannon (COL)

DEF
Greg Vanney (FCD)
Samuel Caballero (CHF)
Frankie Hejduk (CLB)

MID
Youri Djorkaeff (MET)
Thiago (CHF)
Shalrie Joseph (NER)
Landon Donovan (LAG)
Amado Guevara (MET)

FOR
Eddie Johnson (FCD)
Taylor Twellman (NER)

Subs
--
GK
D.J. Countess (RSL)

DEF
Jimmy Conrad (KCW)
Eddie Pope (RSL)
Douglas Sequeira (CHV)
Chris Albright (LAG)

MID
Freduardo (DCU) (if he's healthy, if not, Christian Gomez)
Brad Davis (SJE)
Mark Chung (SJE)
Eric Vasquez (CLB)
Chris Klein (KCW)

FOR
Paco Palencia (CHV)
Jeff Cunningham (COL)
Jaime Moreno (DCU)
Sunday, August 07, 2005
Thoughts from a full day of MLS action
Yeah, I know the Championship, Bundesliga and a host of other leagues got started today but the only league I really care about right now (yeah, I'll probably wake up for the Community Shield match tomorrow) had a full dose of action to start the second half of the season.

In no particular order:

• Excellent game between RSL and Chivas USA. Certainly a fight around the 20th minute gets the blood pumping even if the ref had no chance of keeping order or handing cards to the right person. Yeah, Cleetus didn't deserve a red card (and what did Arias do?) but the ref was out of league to start the match and his crew was ill-prepared to handle that situation (although great coverage by ESPN2 of Romo's dive). Refs should take care of that stuff in the pre-game meeting! That's why you have it in the first place.

Also glad to see someone like Andy Williams get the 5,000th goal and ecstatic that it wasn't a Matt Behncke own-goal or something like that. Talk about a nightmare situation for the league.

Glad the Monarchs could pull out the win. Tough luck that Colorado also picked up a win tonight over teh Galaxy. At some point, we're going to stop worrying about whether RSL can catch the Rapids and the Galaxy is going to have to be the ones worrying about whether they make the playoffs at all. Up only five over Colorado and ten over RSL, it's not likely the Gals will miss the playoffs but I just don't see how Sampson survives this season. If I didn't want him for our next national team boss I'd tell AEG to break the bank to bring Gus Hiddink in. Actually, I wouldn't, since the only MLS team I don't like is FC Hollywood.

• I was supposed to produce the KC - New England game tonight but I did just enough to get that up and running so that I could tune in to the opener of Pizza Hut Park.

First off, let's say this: any time MLS opens a new park it's big news. Outside of Harrion opening tomorrow, opening the Brick Oven is the most important thing MLS will do this season.

Playing games at the Cotton Bowl was becoming a soul sucker for this franchise and with brand spanking new unis, this was a team that needed a shot of adrenaline that all the Carlos Ruiz wundergoals weren't going to bring about.

And the stadium was beautiful tonight. One of the things that most stuck out at me was the shot of players playing a game in Dallas with fans behind them. I'd become so used to the empty stands at the Bowl that seeing fans in the stand, and an aboslutely luscious field, just caught me off guard.

It helped that the game was great. Each team scored excellent goals (both of Ruiz's and Youri's second) and each team could have rightly justified two additional goals (how did EJ miss that?).

Teh Grown Ass Man is still, clearly, not match fit but Carlos Ruiz is. How is it the most talented are often the most mercurial. We might be able to list all five nominees for Goal of the Year from Ruiz this year ... that backheel was sensational. Not a bad chip from Youri, either.

Just a great way to open the stadium and, for the first time that I can remember, Dallas had the highest attendance this week ... and the rest of the games weren't slouches either (except for S.J.).

• I feared a low-attendance backlash for the Summer Soccer Celebration last month where fans just needed a week off to let their credit cards cool off. While it certainly wasn't a banner night, we did have one over 16,000 and two 14,000 games. Only NE was a disappointment. I'm used to San Jose not drawing well and still don't understand how the city thinks they deserve a team when they can't draw anyone to what otherwise looks like a decent facility (despite MLS not making a dime there). I can understand why FCD had such a hard time drawing and the MetroStars Giant dud proved itself.

I just don't understand what's up with that area.

• Here's something I wasn't expecting at the beginning of the season ... San Jose is in first place. Even though FCD has a game in hand, here's my vote for Dom Kinnear for Coach of the Year.

• I still think Chivas USA can make the playoffs but they really, really needed the game today. I can't wait to see what they look like with Palencia and Loquito in the lineup. A good offense makes a porous defense look better.

• I didn't get to watch the D.C. - Chicago game but here's the big thoughts

  • Damn, the Franchise got hurt. He should have come off as soon as he got hurt ... I think we all forget he's 16. His body can't handle the stresses the same way an adult's can. Read the quotes from the game. Freddy knew he was done ... don't force it, Nowak. That's the future of American soccer right there.

  • Every game these guys play is good. Here's to a D.C. - Chicago Eastern Conference Final.



• Final thoughts? Good weekend. Everything was flying with the those start times. In the future, I really hope we can stagger some of these games. One, because that makes my job easier but, two, I really want people to see these games. Could you imagine a 2:00 p.m. Eastern start time (yeah, it'd be hot), a 4pm, 6pm, 8pm and 10pm? All day soccer. That'd be awesome.

Of course, with seven games in a weekend (after the next round of expansion which is when the TV deals get renegotiated), we could do two 6pms, two - three 8pm/7:30pms and two 10pms. Perhaps even a Sunday game at the new Metroplex in Harrison.

Lots of positives out of this week. None moreso than the Brick Oven. It's going to be an exciting stretch run.