Tuesday, September 27, 2005
Wherein I play the role of Scaryice
I got to thinking and one of the things that frustrates me most about the current MLS setup isn't the lack of focus or intensity in regular season games, it's the number of the times the same teams face each other.

Now, nothing really alleviates that other than more teams. With that in mind, I'm planning for 2007 already.

Let's say in 2007 that one team (Toronto) enters the mix because the other team (Milwaukee) won't be ready until 2008.

East
--
D.C. United
MetroStars
New England
Columbus
Kansas City
Chicago
Toronto

West
--
Chivas USA
Colorado
FC Dallas
L.A. Galaxy
Real Salt Lake
San Jose Quakes
Milwaukee

When we get to seven teams per league, I think it works out pretty well for a 32-game regular season. That's three games against intra-conference rivals (18 games) and two games against non-conference rivals (14 games). That adds to 32 pretty well.

However, if only one new team comes in 2007, what the heck happens?
Monday, September 26, 2005
Ugh
Yes, that foul on Alston in the U-17's match against Holland that broke his leg (and that the company providing video for FSC decided to replay a hundred million times) isn't a red card because more than likely it's a 16 year old kid being late to a tackle, but, man, I hate it for the kid.

That was Theismann-esque. Or it looked a lot like the broken leg Cisse for Liverpool suffered last year. Just disgusting. I hope the kid can come back.
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
"I hate those bloody I-ties!"
EurotripI don't have any personal animosity toward our friends in the boot-shaped country (and I'm sure that's a very offensive slur I just don't know about yet) but that is one of my favorite lines from Eurotrip, a highly underrated stupid movie. And it aptly describes my thoughts after watching the mini-Yanks totally outclass the mini-I-ties in a 3-1 win at the U-17 Championships in Peru yesterday.

During the course of the match (in which we could have easily won 5 or 6-nil if not for some just-wide shots and the complete howler the U.S. 'keeper let in (perhaps it's not just Timmah)) we played with more speed, athleticism and talent than the Italians. I'm not sure if it's more to do with the players being 16 and 17 years old and not being talented enough to overcome superior athleticism or if we were really that good.

We played solid defense and moved the ball forward with ease. None of the players seemed comfortable on the FieldTurf field (all matches in this tournament are playing on FieldTurf as FIFA tests it out for future matches) and I think that hurt the midfield play to a point. Still, we were barely on our end of the field, had a goal nullified (that would have been credited to RSL first pick Nik Besagno) for no particular reason and Italy had no answer for forward David Arvizu.

Honestly, in eight or ten years, I'll be able to say I saw when David Arvizu started to become a star. The kid was all over the place. He could stand to improve his finishing but italy had no answer for his speed, his ball control and his ability to push past people. An all-around great game from him.

Except for the howler, the defense was also in good form. Besagno came back to play in the center of defense (instead of his usual role as a d-mid) and I'm sure Coach Ellinger was watching and wishing he could have Nik back for tonight's game against Colorado. Man, RSL needs some help on D. Anyway, Besagno went out with a sprained (maybe more?) ankle but that was the only downside.

Oh, and get this, the Italians were so pissed (after a straight red in the 60th when the assistant referee noticed something the head honcho didn't see) and countless late struggling fouls that after the game was over, they tried to start a fight with the US. One player was so frustrated that he started making motions like he was shooting a basketball, telling the U.S. fans (parents) to go home and play basketball (theoretically in reference to Italy being the first country to beat the U.S. after the U.S. started using NBA players in international competition). Classic.

All in all, a good win. Next up is the Ivory Coast but no Didier Drogba. U.S. is already through to the quarterfinals.
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
I love Real Madrid, but I'd like to coach Barcelona
DCenters picked up on a story originally posted at Du Nord that I think shows perfectly how far MLS has to go.

John Harkes is apparently interested in the yet-to-be-vacated spot at the peak of Mt. Metro. Harkes admits that his heart is still with D.C. United but that he'd be excited about the post of the Black and Red's supposed arch-rival.

How?

Look, if you're working for the Dawgs and head ball coach's old spot comes open at Florida, you don't profess your love for the Gators (at least if you don't intend for your vehicle to make it through Athens unscathed). If your an assistant manager for Liverpool, you're not professing your love for the Everton top spot (especially if Moyes is still in charge, which I'm not sure will be much longer). If you work in the youth system for Real Madrid, you don't drool over the Barcelona top spot.

MLS needs some rivalry, some animosity and some honest-to-goodness sports-hate (* - to be distinguished from actual hate which should be reserved only for the likes of Hitler, terrorists and Dema Kovalenko).

Unfortunately, those kinds of things only come with time and the events on, and off, the field will build up rivalries that take years to develop. Or, we could just stack Chivas next year and have them win MLS Cup. That'd certainly piss some people off.

NOTE: If you can, check out the mini-Eagles as they take on the mini-I-ties at 4:30 ET on FSC.

NOTE part deux: If you stumbled on this particular outpost on the web thanks to Grant Wahl, welcome. Grant ... if you end up in NYC in the near future, your next beer's on me. Thanks for keeping the beautiful game's stories alive in the U.S. Oh, and Lech Yisrael!
Monday, September 19, 2005
A true oh-fer
I don't pay a super-duper lot of attention to the EPL other than to see that I'm winning my fantasy league (check!), the Americans keep playing well (check! -- hopefully that includes Bones next season ... he'd be a good replacement for SWP at Citeh) and a passing interest in how Liverpool is failing ... er, fairing. I'm much more excited by Champions League.

But I noticed this week that Chelsea is on a roll again. They are 6-0-0. And, get this, they haven't even given up a goal yet. They're six points clear of their closest competitor and the only challenge I see for them this year is if they can win the Treble and finish the Prem season without giving up a goal.

Meanwhile, in our own backyard, the Eastern Conference of MLS, with less than five games left in the regular season, has five teams that could win the conference ... and one of whom will miss out on the playoffs.

Hrm. Maybe "mediocrity" does beget excitement after all.
Friday, September 16, 2005
A question of loyalties ...
I'm a diehard MLS fan ... moreso than I probably should be but at least it means I can Tivo the 8am Saturday morning Prem match and watch it later without feeling guilty.

That said, I'm in a bit of a pickle.

I make it a point to purchase products from companies that sponsor MLS. For my feet I'll bypass Nike sneaks (though they do support US Soccer) for adidas footwear, I make an extra effort to shop at Radioshack (even though they never have what I need) and I encourage all my homeowning friends to shop at The Home Depot. I draw the line at Sierra Mist because, well, I'm from Georgia and it's not soda, it's Coke. Or Diet Coke in my case.

That said, here's my problem:

The red and black of the Georgia Bulldogs has flowed through my blood since I was accepted to school there (Mara ... dawga ... it's funny now that you know where I went to school, innit?). And Gatorade, despite being a huge sponsor of MLS, also racks up a few more $$ for the University of Florida every time someone buys a refreshing orange or lime colored beverage.

So, I'm torn. Do I buy Gatorade, support MLS but also support Florida or stick with Powerade which has done the job just perfectly for me since I was in school but doesn't help MLS.

I like MLS, but I don't know if I can help UF.
Eight is enough...
One of the most common complaints I hear with the MLS playoff structure is that too many teams get in.

"Eight teams! Up until last year only two teams missed the playoffs! Now over half the league makes it! You can play crappy all year and still win the cup! It makes the regular season meaningless! More exclamation points, please!!!"

To me, that's a silly argument. One, limited playoff spots doesn't make the regular season any less or more exciting. Talk to me sometime when you're watching a Clippers-Bobcats regular season NBA game or a Royals-Tigers midseason MLB game. Not impressed? How about a Blue Jackets-Hurricanes mid-January NHL game or, G-d bless 'em, a mid-January Bolton-Middlesbrough slugfest?

Right now nothing will make the regular-season more meaningful unless players decide to play harder. And, frankly, over the course of a 32-game regular season, I don't expect every matchup to be fantastic. No sport has that.

In time, once the league has expanded (in 10 years or so), we should be at 18-20 teams and that will mean that less than half of those teams make it into the playoffs. Do I think we'll push higher than that in team locations? Sure, I expect MLS to eventually have 24 - 30 teams in its stable and never, never will promotion/relegation enter in the conversation.

The one thing we're lacking here that Europe and South America has, and that only College Football has in the U.S., are alternative competitions. Not only is the fight for the Prem title huge, once Chelsea's 50 points ahead of everyone by February, at least other teams can fight for Champions League positions. Or UEFA Cup. Or Libertadores. Or Sudamericana.

Once Conmebol and Concacaf combine (I have a gut feeling that's less than 5 years away -- post 2010 World Cup), we'll see our opportunities for auxilliary competitions increase and instead of 12 teams fighting for one cup (and the U.S. Open Cup ... whose merits have been debated plenty over the past few weeks) we'll have lots of teams fighting for lots of cups ... and more to play for.
Wednesday, September 14, 2005
Central American National Team
So, yesterday was big news in the world of footcer with all the English clubs winning in the Champions League and Lyon laying the smack down on the Galacticos.

But no, fair friends, that's not the news that piqued my interest yesterday.

The news that most got my attention was right here in our own back yard. The L.A. Galaxy traded Jovan Kirovski to Colorado in exchange for a draft pick ... in 2007. Sure, this move was made possible by Herculez! Herculez!'s recent run of form and with the extra spot on the senior squad, Snr. Gomez will also be given a better contract.

While I think it's great that the Gals will give their developmental players who perform well senior roster contracts (you listening Chicago Fire?), it's still jarring to see a guy who has played in the Bundesliga, Champions League and England being traded to the league stepchild for a draft pick down the road.

Also, in other completely unsurprising moves, Marcelo Saragosa is coming back to the Galaxians in Steve Sampson's quest to remove every American from the team. C'mon, Stevie, you've only got Landon, Pete, Cobi, Chris and Hartman to get rid of! [Rob Schneider voice]You can do it![/Rob Schneider voice] (Yeah, I know there are more Americans on the team, but I can't remember the last American he brought in --- I don't count Landon, AEG brought him in.)

Also, Colorado brought in Diego Serna (I'd link to it if the Rapids site weren't down -- seriously, what is it going to take for them to give up their site to us?) in the 'Pids attempt to corner the global market in mediocre forwards. Seriously, don't they have something like 8 forwards on their roster? I'd check, but as I mentioned, their site is down.

More Champions League today and Open Cup tonight. I love MLS, I really do, but I'm a Thunder fan tonight.
Tuesday, September 13, 2005
1-0 PSV
There's no more sure way to stir up my wanderlust and my desire to move to Europe to attend all these wonderful matches than to listen/watch Champions League football.

Right now I have Liverpool - Betis on the screen and am listening to PSV - Schalke. PSV is up 1-0 on a Hesselink header off a Bones corner.

Someone call Virgin Atlantic, I'm ready to go.
Monday, September 12, 2005
So what did we learn from the weekend ...
I didn't get a chance to watch the games this weekend (yeah, yeah ... I only get so many weekends where I'm not watching every game) but with the recaps and the highlights, here's what I've learned:

1) If Dom Kinnear is not the CotY, it's a crime. San Jose is challenging for the Supporter's Shield depsite losing two of its best players (Donovan and Mulrooney) and doing it outside of the media spotlight. And kudos to the fans who showed up 22,000 strong to officially knock las rayadas out of the playoff hunt. Anyone know how many of those fans were Chivas fans?

2) Steve Nicol's not doing too badly himself up in New Eng-er-land. If his team had been gutted like Kinnear's in the offseason then he wouldn't be choice numero dos in my voting.

2a) Also, how is it Taylor Twellman can be terrorizing MLS but can't seem to break through on the national stage. Yeah, he was facing el amarillo but that doesn't discount his hat-trick. Also, another thing of interest is that gives Twellman 14 goals. Last year, our co-goal-scoring leaders had only 12 (one of which was EJ). With five to seven games remaining for teams in the regular season, it'd be nice to have someone pushing 20 at the end of they year.

2b) Yes, I know a lot of this has to do with the two expansion teams but in the same number of games from last year, we already have two teams north of 50 points. Last year's Supporter's Shield winner, the aforementioned Crew, had only 46 points. With 18 points on the table for Los Terremotos and the Revs, one of those teams could be pushing 60 points. Just from an outsider's view, I think it looks better when teams are pushing higher in the points category. I imagine that point total will be down next year as RSL and Chivas get better and get some of those points back but it certainly looks impressive this year.

3) Don't look now but the Talisman and his Galaxians are in second place in the west and have all but secured a Dallas-LA first round matchup in the playoffs. Speaking of the Super Hoops, what the heck happened? Is there a curse on the Brick Oven?

4) Discounting what I said above, the 'Pids have two games in hand on the Hoops and the Galaxy ... could the American Nerazzuri make a run at second place in the West? I don't think anyone wants to play San Jose right now.

5) Meet the new D.C. United, same as the old D.C. United.

6) Some pretty good team is going to miss out in the East. Amazing that Chicago could have been in first place after the ASG break and still be looking at missing the playoffs. It's also pretty certain that a team with an over .500 record is going to miss out on the playoffs ... that'd be a first for MLS.

7) Should be a good game Sunday when RSL travels to Frisco to face the Hoops at Pizza Hut Park. I'll be tuning in.
Thursday, September 08, 2005
World Cup brings out the best in us (bloggers, not the team)
Sorry I've been away for a while ... with plenty of coworkers off work and all the Katrina stuff, soccer blogging's been the last thing on my mind. But I'm back ... dunno if that's good for y'all or not.

My thoughts on tonight's WCQ:

• What does it say when the U.S. can send basically a B team (Landon came on late and so did EJ, but, still ...) and realistically be disappointed not to come away with a win on the road in CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying. Granted, we stopped playing defense late but I don't expect to see Jimmy Conrad on the World Cup roster.

• Yeah, EJ should have scored. Would have liked for him to keep up his goal-scoring streak but a guy who hasn't played a national team game in months still looked pretty good in action.

• We didn't have a ton of scoring chances but was not impressed with the finishing. Question: Would McBride have finished those chances? EJ is otherwise a first-choice striker.

• I know Donovan is the Talisman but I really think the U.S. looks much slower and less dangerous without Bones in the lineup. Without his speed, it doesn't open nearly as much space for the rest of the team.

• I'm not convinced Convey is the answer at left wing and I'm less sure of who the right winger is. I know Bones is set but it seems to me he can play either left or right so one of those positions is up for grabs. Convey? Not sold. Quaranta? Not dangerous enough as a starter yet (though I do think he'll be good). Dempsey? The Steven Gerrard of the U.S. national team. Ralston? I just don't feel he's consistent or dangerous enough.

• So if Beasley starts on the left, who starts on the right?

• I'm not impressed with Mastroeni ... I don't know what it is but I just don't feel like he's effective.

• Hanehman did alright tonight but it's just a reminder of how great Kasey is.

• We looked slow tonight. Donovan may be The Talisman but Bones is the engine that makes this team go.

• Cap Adu! (I just had to toss that in there.)