MLS Week 3: Black Eyes and Big Ideas

(NOTE: Because the week got off the a god-awful start – and because I further handicapped this young week by drowning it in beer – I have to forgo posting the feature I advertised this morning, “MLS Week #___: Let the Record Show.”  I’ll get this stuff down shortly…promise.  I lieu of that one, I’ll be posting a feature I attempted to start last week, but that I feel much, much better about this week.  That’s below.)

Welcome to my kinda/sorta counter-point to my colleague Breton’s 10 Bright Spots posts: Black Eyes and Big Ideas.  I’ll start with a rundown of all the personal and general disasters from the games from the previous weekend.  After those, I’ll touch on the striking trends that come to me – e.g. the Big Ideas lurking out there.

As always, feel free to add your own black eyes and big ideas in the comments.  And do bear with me: this feature, along with the others, will improve once I get used to the new rhythms of my week.

BLACK EYES
Greg Vanney…
LA’s loss to Toronto FC (TFC) raised plenty of issues, but the one man who drew plenty of notice in the loss was Greg Vanney.  Involved and, tragically, burned on all three TFC goals, I can’t imagine he’s forwarding video from this week’s loss to friends and relatives. Continue reading

MLS Week 3 Ink-Blot

The idea behind this is pretty simple: whether you’ve seen the game in question or not, results provoke a gut-level reaction. It can be a “wow,” a “meh,” or even an “I told you, you twit,” but there’s always something. That’s what comes below: a kind of “say the first thing that pops into your head” reaction to the scores and highlights from Week 3 in Major League Soccer (MLS). For the record, I catch only two or three games a week, which leaves several games that I “see” exclusively through print and/or highlights. That’s not going to change; if you’re watching every MLS game, every week…I dunno, seems like a cry for help…or maybe a sign that you really need to tell family and loved ones something…like maybe that you hate them? Just thinking out loud there…

Anyway, I’m a day behind on this due to scheduling difficulties (what happened? I’m guessing you want to know less than I want to tell you.) Expect this item every Sunday in future, when all the results from the week are in. I’ll come back later today (possibly a lot later) after I do a bunch of reading on how everyone out there – or everyone I read – viewed Week 3 in Major League Soccer (MLS). By that same token, anyone wanting to flesh out the (very) quick impressions passed on below should feel absolutely free to do so; that could be part of my researches. Finally, I’ll get into more detail on the games I did catch over the weekend in that later post – in this case, Colorado v. New England and Columbus v. Chivas USA.

Moving on…and, what the hell, let’s start at the beginning of Week 3. MLSnet.com match reports (which I have not, and generally struggle, to read) are embedded in the scores: Continue reading

10 Bright Spots of Week 3: A Different Becks and A Good Weekend to Have a Keeper

BIGSOCCER: 10 Bright Spots of Week 3

1. Kyle Beckerman

Someone pinch this guy. Two goals, one a possible goal of the week, against a revamped D.C. United squad that looked helpless at the machinations of a fluid RSL attack. Beckerman was overwhelmingly the reason for that. He won balls in the midfield, showed near-perfect passing abilities, and never let up. Let’s not forget his long range shooting. Beckerman’s second goal was brilliant…Findley laid the ball off after posting up in the penalty box, Beckerman took a field goal’s three steps and fired a shot that powered past the flailing Jose Carvallo.

2. Arturo Alvarez

Alvarez gave RBNY a taste of their own medicine in a 2-0 shutout at home. He mirrored Dave van den Bergh, who scored the fastest goal in RBNY history in last week’s home opener – a 2-0 win over Columbus. Alvarez showed poise, blazing speed, and a general lack of respect for a fumbling New York backline. New York showed most of the attacking prowess, but Alvarez made his contributions count, scoring that quick goal and taking a lot of pressure off of big-man Kenny Cooper, who was able to grab his third of the young season.

3. Bouna Coundoul

Easily, save of the week and game of the week for the Colorado keeper. Coundoul weathered a storm of Revolution shots, 9 on goal total, to help Colorado to a 1-0 shutout. His goal line saver on Kenny Mansally was the most entertaining of the bunch, but Coundoul kept the Rapids from another Kansas City let down. The Revs almost found their equalizer late but it was Bouna time and he embraced it, parrying away a late free kick and a breakaway from rookie speedster Kheli Dube. 

4. Robbie Rogers

First this game made me dizzy. Secondly, Rogers exploits on the wing made me harken back to the U-20 World Cup when Zizzo and Rogers ruled the touchline. His industrious work on the left almost went unrewarded until he received a nice through ball from Schelloto (one they had been trying to get to work all game). Rogers made the most of it, feigning a shot to the far post and firing near. His second shot was a product of gasp! – a mistake on Brad Guzan’s part! – but his decision to shoot early threw last year’s MLS Keeper of the Year for a loop. Best game of the weekend… 

5. Landon Donovan

If Donovan had put some earlier chances in (turn your body, Landon, turn your body), the Galaxy might have overcome their defensive mishaps. He did however manage to score both of LA’s goals which was pissed all away after Greg Vanney decided to forget about Jeff Cunningham on the game-winning goal. I like him in the Galaxy’s offense this year and I see only a career year for him – if he stays healthy and Beckham too.

6. Maurice Edu

The man called for goals and he got them. Wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for Edu covering every inch of the field like a madman. He was everywhere, winning balls, breaking up Galaxy advances, and giving new acquisitions Guevara and Robert the freedom to move with the ball. The Galaxy should have probably still won that game, but Edu delivered on his promise of a win and goals. And they did it in Los Angeles… 

7. Nick LaBrocca

Why not give #7 to the man from New Jersey who has “graduated” from the Colorado reserves and embraced his role in the Rapids midfield. Between LaBrocca and DiRaimondo, scrappy might describe both of them but when you have Gomez (let’s remember the Argentinian had to leave the field this weekend with a knee injury) in front of them, winning challenges and distribution is the name of the game. LaBrocca grabbed the winner for Colorado over a New England team that was putting a lot of pressure on Colorado offensively. Scrappy can win games though and Colorado came away with three.

8. Shea Salinas

Yep, along with #10, you’ll see two pity picks in this week’s Bright Spots. Salinas was the perfect injection for San Jose in the second half against Chicago and it almost paid off. Almost. He worked his ass off on the wing, getting open consistently, and finding himself in the right place at the right time…but he couldn’t convert. Most noticably from 2 yards out. A deflection off the post fell right to his feet and all Salinas had to do was beat Jon Busch far post, but instead he tried to slot over the sprawling Busch and into the upper corner. Didn’t work, he skied it, and that was that…win for Chicago. Great stuff from a rookie though…look for him to get better and better.

9. Jon Busch

San Jose had the offensive edge at home but Busch made it look the other way around. Saved by the post and only really threatened with shots that were a bit manageable, Busch has proven already that he can be the first team keeper that the Fire desperately need this year. It’s clear some defensive issues are going to need to be worked out, but Chicago still sits at the top of the table with Blanco already poised to surpass his output from last year.

10. Tony Caig

I know, I know…most of you are saying no way to this pick. This guy had a terrible showing in his first two matches only to come back this weekend and shut out a prolific Kansas City attack. The Wizards have been caught on a bit of a downturn in form, but Caig held his own. Basically, this is a pity pick.

La Liga: Jornada 32 Weekend In Review

For anyone that’s new to these parts, I don’t write weekend reviews, but rather link to reviews since I don’t find it to be a good use of my time. And since others do a great job, I just link to them!

La Liga Results-Jornada 32

Saturday 12 April 2008 (Spanish Time)
20:00 Valencia 1 – Racing 2 FT
22:00 Recreativo 2 – Barcelona 2 FT

Sunday 13 April
17:00 Valladolid 1 – At. Madrid 1 FT
17:00 Betis 0 – Levante 1 FT
17:00 Getafe 0 – Zaragoza 0 FT
17:00 Espanyol 0 – Osasuna 1 FT
17:00 Deportivo 3 – Athletic 0 FT
17:00 Mallorca 2 – Sevilla 3 FT
19:00 R. Madrid 1- Murcia 0 FT
21:00 Almería 1 – Villarreal 0 FT

Continue reading

McBride and Fulham’s away win too little too late?

Brian McBride and Clint Dempsey started for the Cottagers as they trounced a sad looking Reading squad. Steve Coppell’s side forgot how to attack – and you know that happened when Andre Bikey is the only one that can find a shot on net. Kasey Keller manned the nets as Roy Hodgson shattered his “only play 2 Americans at-a-time” mold. McBride’s work ethic paid off today finding chance after chance on net. Dempsey patrolled the midfield taking attention with him from Reading defenders and leaving Jimmy Bullard free to fire his long shot or two. Overall, a great day – but many wonder, is it too little, too late?? The Cottagers face a tough remaining schedule, as do Reading, and it looks likely that both (6 Americans) could be on their way down to the Championship. Bolton and Birmingham, however, are struggling down the stretch as well and if points can be taken in the last 4 games, there’s a shot. Either way, Roy Hodgson should not stay.

It was Keller and Hahnemann in net- two goalkeepers from the Pacific Northwest and apparently on the Seattle Sounders radar come 2009. Hahnemann looks the more likely decision and you could see why today. A 2-0 win for Fulham was modest, thanks to Hahnemann who got his hand to a number of chances that should have been clear goals. The Cottagers hit the post FOUR times – one being the most acrobatic volley I’ve ever seen out of the 35-year old McBride.  David Healy worked hard today, but it was sub Erik Nevland who took advantage of his chances – finishing a run down the right side in the 91st minute. Carlos Bocanegra came in for Dempsey with about 20 minutes to go and shut his marks down. Therefore, the Americans played well – but where in the world is Bobby Convey? He makes a big fuss about dooming Fulham to relegation, how it doesn’t really matter that there are other Americans on the team, and then he can’t make the damn bench…

Oh. Right. Why focus on the relegation battle? No real reason…except that it was Fulham’s first AWAY win in 34 – I repeat 34 – away games. That’s almost two full years of NOT winning away from home. Why the sudden change? The burst of energy, desire to win? Did Hodgson just say to go out and play…cause they didn’t look like Hodgson tactics today.

But once again, too little too late? They are now 4 points from safety, 4 games left, 2 away, and Liverpool’s looming. You do the math.

MLS: Pouring Some Sauce over Week 3

With the ground shifting violently beneath my feet and my hands getting burned by all the pokers I’m pulling from the fire, I thought I’d try to post something saucy, topical, and yet not too complicated. I also wanted it to be useful…you judge the extent to which I succeeded.

As such, below you’ll find bold predictions about the weekend (saucy/topical) and a one-stop list of all the injuries MLSnet.com deigned to acknowledge (at least one gap exists) in the previews they post every week. Writing as someone who rarely gives MLSnet.com credit, I hereby applaud their previews…even if the timing isn’t always the best and that the list of injuries is the only bit that interests me.

Let’s start with the “saucy”…with the league standings as my walking stick…if you catch my meaning… Continue reading

Who’s your PFA Player of the Year???

Here are the nominees, which came out yesterday, for the Professional Footballers Associaton’s Player of the Year. For many, the decision seems to be clear cut. What’s your vote…………?

1. Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United) – David Pizarro’s least favorite player has gathered in 40 games a whopping 37 goals – outscoring both Wayne Rooney and Carlos Tevez together. He has also come through on clutch situations, established himself as a presence in the locker room and in Sir Alex Ferguson’s eyes, all at the ripe age of 23. This is all after a 2006-07 season that saw him hit for 23 goals which now looks like cake compared to 2007-08. Most people’s unanimous selection.

2. Fernando Torres (Liverpool) – Few can argue a nomination, but there many out there that tout his arrival and goalscoring as more impressive than Ronaldo’s feats. If you take his move over from Atletico Madrid, the time it took to get accustomed the English football (or lack thereof), and then the subsequent rebirth of an extremely dangerous Liverpool forward, you could certainly vote for Torres. $50 million for 29 goals? That good value?? Probably better than what it would cost to get Ronaldo’s 37.

3. Cesc Fabregas (Arsenal) – All these young’uns on this shortlist. Fabregas has officially become Arsenal’s playmaker and on-field presence. With Cesc, Adebayor wouldn’t have his goals. That alone says things. At 20 years old, Thierry Henry has become a little bit of an afterthought at the Emirates when Adebayor and Cesc link up. His flair, skill, and vision are unbelievable for a player at 20 with the weight of the Gunners on his shoulders.

4. Steven Gerrard (Liverpool) – Feels like this year has been Gerrard’s to get lost in the mix. The three nominations above him have taken most of the attention in Europe and the EPL. But Gerrard has remained steady. His leadership rises above the rest – even in the midst of Liverpool struggles. Gerrard wears his heart on his sleeve and it’s hard to see it on any sleeve but Liverpool’s. 20 goals, game-winning assists, and a tenacity that few midfielders posess in the EPL, Gerrard still has many years ahead of him. At what point does his loyalty and commitment to Liverpool go for naught?

5. Emmanuel Adebayor (Arsenal) – I would have never predicted Adebayor’s break-out season. Henry’s departure led to it, but it’s one thing to play the role of new striker and another to actually make the most of it. Adebayor has produced some of the most spectacular goals this year and stabilized an Arsenal squad that looked destined for mediocrity at the beginning of the season. Yes, the season is catching up to the Gunners – but Adebayor’s efforts certainly puts him on this shortlist.

6. David James (Portsmouth) – Getting towards over the hill (37 y.o.), James has had one interesting career full of huge ups and massive downs. “Calamity” James isn’t exactly the greatest nickname is it? Regardless, James has become a rock in the Pompey goal as they make their run for Europe. He’s also only been the real constant in Fabio Capello’s pool of underperforming goalkeepers. The real questions is – is this the keeper to put on here?

Who all is missing?? Did Tim Howard get snubbed? Why no Gareth Barry of Aston Villa??

Either way, it’s hard to believe that Cristiano Ronaldo won’t become the 4th ever player to win this distinction twice. Consecutively, I might add. Last person to do so was Thierry Henry in 2002-03 and 2003-04.  

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