These boots are made for scoring…not breaking feet

I’m sure with all of the Manchester United fans crying a river based on the Wayne Rooney injury, someone had to come out and comfort the masses.

Well one of those comforting, feel good talks was given by Nike today, who insisted today that the boot Rooney was wearing had nothing to do with his injury

‘He himself is personally absolutely confident, as we are, that the boot had nothing to do with his injury.

I love the fact that they had to come out and say that. I mean sure, Rooney has had his share of foot injuries in the past, once in 2004 and again in 2006, but was this really necessary.

I think the real crime is having to drop 200 quid on a pair of Nike boots anyway.

MLS News Wire, 08.13: St. Louis; Brazil; Chivas Rebuilds

Today was one of those days where I felt confined by the three-subject rule I adopted for this feature; that meant I couldn’t plug something entirely wonderful like the David Beckham drinking game proposed by Dan Loney. Shit…did I just type that?

– According to a saucy post – and I mean saucy in the sense that they’re ahead of couple other sites – MLS Rumors reports today that St. Louis, Missouri will be Major League Soccer’s (MLS) 15th franchise…even though they’ll build their stadium in Illinois…which technically makes them something like Illinois’ second franchise as opposed to Missouri’s first. In related news, the various groups trying to bring a team to Seattle, Washington continue fiddling around in their pants…

– A lot of places are noting that the U.S. “friendly” in Mexico’s Azteca Stadium fell through, which prompted the U.S. to schedule a game against Brazil; WVHooligan happens to be the first place I read of this, so I figured I’d link to him. That post closes by asking for opinions, so here’s mine: I’d rather play Mexico in the Azteca, mainly because there is no such thing as a “friendly” between the U.S. and Mexico. I’m thinking we’ll learn more from a good game against a good, motivated opponent in a tricky venue than we will against yet another home game against a great team phoning it in.

– A couple places clock Chivas USA’s plans to make a good team gooder – specifically, through the addition of d-mid Raphael Wicky and forward Oscar Echeverry (NOTE: That second one is a rumor, but it sounds like the deal for Wicky will go through). It’s been a good year in general for signings, but here’s to hoping these moves, assuming they come to fruition, add to the league overall.

LA Playoffs: Donovan Believes; Do You? Who Else Misses?*

* I think I tipped my hand a little by posing that last question…

At any rate, the Los Angeles Galaxy’s Landon Donovan related his glass-half-full estimation of his team’s chances to a Boston Herald reporter:

“We’ve got a chance,” said Donovan. “The good thing is we’ve got more than half the season to go. If we can put together a second half of the season like some teams have done in the first half, then we can make it. At this point, it’s hard to see that, because we’re just trying to win the next game.”

But with harsh opinions about everything from the savvy of LA’s GM to polls about choosing between the Superliga and Major League Soccer (MLS) (and thanks for the tip, Laurie), one could posit the hypothesis that optimism about LA’s chances decrease as one moves physically away from Donovan. Going against that, though, the local professional press doesn’t think much of LA’s chances…maybe it’s the road trip…how to test that hypothesis?

Speaking for myself, the past two losses have emboldened me to declare the Galaxy’s post-season chances dead, though not yet buried. And, while I’m on the subject and with one eye on the current standings, here’s who else I think will miss the ’07 playoffs: Real Salt Lake (tough call, I know); the Colorado Rapids; Toronto FC; and…drumroll, please…the Chicago Fire. Sorry…I just can’t stop believing in the Columbus Crew Miracle.

Who do you see missing out?

Red Bull Return: Is It Who You Play or How?

No, I didn’t watch the full 90+ minutes in the true, linear sense, so here’s to hoping I saw enough for what appears below to hold up. I’ll be filling in match reports from other outlets as I read them in the space below (and any volunteers should feel free to drop their views in the comments).
New Jersey Star-Ledger 
New York Newsday 
Soccer by Ives
Toronto (?) Globe & Mail 

Here’s what I saw:

Red Bull New York won on Sunday and deservedly so; the 3-0 score spoke fairly to dominance of a sort. But would the Red Bull team that soundly beat a battered Toronto FC (TFC) have topped the valiant Columbus Crew side that wilted against FC Dallas? My answer, based on 45 minutes of snapshot viewing, is probably not. And because good enough to beat a gutted Toronto ain’t the same as reviving your fortunes, it’s hard to peg Red Bull in the grand scheme.

Pieces of the team certainly worked well. For instance, Red Bull’s forward pair ably harassed Toronto’ back line; Josmer Altidore, in particular, turned in a buzzing and bright afternoon that should have won him Man of the Match honors (don’t know; didn’t check). They also spent long periods waiting for service. New York did well enough with possession, but too often only between the back four and the deep-lying midfield; too many passes forward from there took the form of long balls down the flanks that strayed out of bounds. The defense, thanks to the fairly feeble efforts of Toronto’s offense, essentially took the game pass/no-pass – and they passed.

Speaking of Toronto, simply naming four of their missing starters – Danny Dichio, Robbie O’Brien, Marvell Wynne, and Jeff Cunningham – says plenty about why they ended the first half without taking a shot. Harsh as it sounds, the understudies fell so far short of being up to the job that Andrea Lombardo’s shot to what looked a lot like Hunter Freeman’s “pills” (that’s “balls,” for the euphemistically challenged) stands as the signal offensive contribution from Major League Soccer’s Canadian contingent – and that was “offensive” on a number of levels (the bill for that is, no doubt, on its way). With unfortunate/clumsy defending accounting for two of Red Bull’s goals, Toronto’s defense hardly covered itself in glory either.

Speaking of goals, and returning to Altidore, his second strike – Red Bull’s third – highlights the difference between simply looking stupid on defense and being made to look stupid. The speed and decisiveness of Altidore’s movement in creating that goal so flustered the lone defender and TFC’s ‘keeper that both of them did, in fact, fall on their bottoms. Against some fairly strong competition, Altidore turned in my vote for goal of the week.

Other random observations: Continue reading

FCD Over Columbus: Good Day to Be Goodson

Other reports:
Columbus Dispatch 

Columbus Crew Offside
Dallas Morning News 
FC Dallas Updates

When two teams you, as a fan, like about equally play one another, the best you can hope for is a great game. Happily, the Columbus Crew and FC Dallas obliged (me, at least) this Saturday by turning in one of the games of 2007. Crisp and intelligent movement produced countless threatening moments for both sides, which makes it somewhat ironic that all but one of the games five goals came on set plays…and that goal was just weird…not ugly, just weird…

While casting this as a heavyweight bout runs to type, a middleweight contest better describes the far-from-plodding give-and-take of this game. Columbus came out flying, forcing Dallas on the back foot up to, and beyond the point when Marcos Gonzalez opened the scoring for the Crew. Dallas steadied itself and, bit by bit, met to the Crew’s intensity. Not too far into the second half, Dallas equalized when Arturo Alvarez ended a penalty-area melee with a goal so physically awkward that I’m still sorting out the physics (leaning over striking leg…which faces toward the goal…he scoops it across the goalmouth to the far post netting…with that kind of velocity?). It’s here where the game really lifted.

Just as Columbus starts wilting, Guillermo Barros Schelotto and Frankie Hejduk combine to conjure a penalty, which Andy Herron tucks away: 2-1 Columbus. Between the effort exerted and the broiling heat, it was hard to imagine Dallas pulling back one, never mind, two goals. But, incredibly, the pace of the game barely relented through the 20 minutes that followed, a period that ends, nearly simultaneously, with Dallas again leveling the score through Carlos Ruiz (remember him?) and getting reduced to ten men when Marcelo Saragosa got sent off.

With Dallas down to ten and a draw looking likely the Crew’s fatigue – a subtle thing until Schelotto’s legs couldn’t carry him to one more pass into space – suddenly became apparent. And as the game’s final ten minutes count down, with a draw still on the cards even with Dallas largely owning possession and aggression, what seemed like a series of corners end with Clarence Goodson – 2006’s Own-Goal King – slamming home the last-gasp winner.

That Goodson netted the winner wraps up this game nicely, because he’s a big part of why FC Dallas looks like a contender this year. Dallas’ backline has matured as a whole, but Goodson’s hitting full stride: his steady, smooth, at times even silky, defending at the back kept a very impressive Crew attack at bay till the sickening heat finished the job. And if you look across the back four, the same phenomenon applies, if to varying degrees. Better still, from Dallas’ point of view, is the depth in defense: when Adrian Serioux went down, Aaron Pitchkolan not only replaced him, but improved on his performance. If Drew Moor goes down, there’s Bobby Rhine – and Alex Yi is out there as well. But Goodson is the best of the bunch, the player who has found finally got past finding his feet and is now raising his game. And it’s not going unnoticed: if you lurk around FC Dallas sites, you’ll see this notion in some form or another.

But one man, or even one piece of the team, doesn’t make a contender: it’s the depth and versatility all over the field that makes this quite probably the best Dallas team I’ve ever seen. On Saturday, when Abe Thompson’s muscle didn’t work, Dallas coach Steve Morrow had both Dominic Oduro and Ricardinho to change up the pace and methods of attack. Even the most conspicuous absence – Juan Toja – amounted to very little thanks to a solid central pairing that matched Dax McCarty’s effusive energy and Pablo Richetti’s tenacity.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about this game was the impression that any other team – and, possibly, any other conditions – and Columbus would have walked away with at least a point; all three wouldn’t have surprised me. The thing is, the Crew look good; put another way, I don’t think anyone wants to face them. But the fact that Dallas was better on the day says a lot.

Other observations: Continue reading

French Ligue 1: Giants fail to to grab the necessary points

Lyon suffered a tough and surprising loss to Toulouse. The scapegoat? Swede Kim Kallstrom’s ejection in the 35th minute.  Fellow Swede and Toulouse striker Johan Elmander provided the dramatic, 90th minute strike to beat the defending champions. To add insult to injury, reliable veterans Cris and Sidney Govou both left the game with injuries.

Paris St-Germain was held to a 0-0 draw by a scrappy, but evenly-matched Racing Lens side. Lens’ new coach Guy Roux enjoyed his home debut but was given the run-around by PSG midfielder Jeremy Clement who sparked an otherwise lackluster offense. Nothing came from it and both sides settled with the draw. Lens’ received another promising performance from Kanga Akale.

Marseille were held to a deadlock draw by Stade Rennais, marking their second scoreless draw in a row.

Saint Etienne made its’ presence known as highly coveted Pascal Feinduono struck twice in a 3-1 win over last-year’s surprise Valenciennes. Johan Audel, last week’s player of the week, had the consolation goal but les Verts offensive firepower overwhelmed the piecemeal Valenciennes defense.

Lorient received the necessary offensive support from Rafik Saifi to beat Monaco 2-1 at home. His brace grabbed a vital three points for their quest to escape midtable mediocrity. The goals came early and forced Monaco to rush to equalize, unsuccessfully…with his performance, the Algerian midfielder grabs CHI’s Ligue One Player of the Week.

Bordeaux beat Auxerre 2-0 thanks Brazilian Wendel’s brace. The highlight, however, was the fact that Toifilou Maoulida’s double penalty miss. Maoulida had a chance in each half to counter Wendel’s brace but he missed both opportunities. New Bordeaux boss and WC 1998 star Laurent Blanc has started this Ligue One season with favorable results – 2 wins out of 2.

Other results:

Le Mans 3, Sochaux 1 – two wins to start the season as Le Mans sits at the top of the table for now

Nancy 1, Caen 0 – found an answer to snuff out the effect of Yohan Gouffran and to seal the victory for another win in as many tries

Nice 1, Strasbourg 0 – late strike from Hognon seals the win

League Standings

EPL: Sven and Big Sam start with 3; Man Utd falters

Another slew of games this Tuesday and Wednesday as the Premiership starts with a bang. This past weekend’s slate however was chock full of entertaining matches – most of which I didn’t get to see. Some things that did stick out however:

 Derby 2, Portsmouth 2: Not many expected this I am sure but freshly promoted teams generally fight like hell for the first several games then sputter when it comes to the long-haul of the Premiership season. The Rams took the lead in this one thanks to a Matthew Oakley strike. Pompey fought back to take the lead 2-1 and it looked as of Derby was down and out. Former Blackburn Rover Andy Todd made it 2-2 in the waning moments to secure a point. If they can tie Portsmouth with a squad  that boss Billy Davies is vocally unhappy with – what can they do once strengthened? (is it too early to regret my decision of predicting a 5th place finish for Portsmouth?)

Sunderland 1, Tottenham 0: Spurs faithful have got to be incensed with this one, but looking back on it – why did I ever bet against Roy Keane in his Premiership managerial debut; Chopra doubters were treated to a nice serving of ‘I told you so’ as the former Newcastle dud provided the only goal in the 90th minute

Chelsea 3, Birmingham 2: the Blues struck first early with Mikael Forssell staking a claim for a starting spot but new Chelsea acquisition made his argument by striking less than 2 minutes later; the rest of the game was back and forth as fellow new Chelsea signing Florent Malouda also put his name on the scoresheet; Johan Djourou – plucked from Arsenal’s talent pool – worked all 90 minutes for Birmingham in the back; Michael Essien provided the game winner in the 50th minute and extended Chelsea’s home unbeaten streak; Drogba quelled Chelsea supporter fears with a solid 30 minute run-out

Arsenal 2, Fulham 1: David Healy pounced on a particularly embarassing screw up by Jens Lehmann; search it on YouTube – not quite Paul Robinson-ish but still borderline pathetic; the Gunners fought back for him though as two late goals – a PK from Van Persie and Aleksander Hleb – put Arsenal clear; McBride started up front and Bocanegra in the back, both played all 90 minutes while Clint Dempsey came on for new signing Hamuer Bouazza in the beginning of the second half and worked a serviceable half; Gunner fans have got to be excited about the play of Bakary Sagna and Emmanuel Eboue down the right wing

Reading 0, Manchester United 0: another giant held with unfortunate consequences for Alex Ferguson and all Red Devil fans; Wayne Rooney broke his foot and will be out 2 months at least; they do have Carlos Tevez to look forward to but Rooney looked primed to have a phenomenal year and his absence will make things a bit harder for that Red Devil offense to produce consistently; Reading played the last 20 minutes a man down after Dave Kitson’s ejection and proved pesky (though never threatening); Nicky Shorey was the best man on the field for the Royals and Giggsy for the Red Devils

Other results:

Liverpool 2, Aston Villa 1 – The Reds’ new signings start slow but Gerrard’s goal of the week give them the win

Manchester City 2, West Ham 0 – Spector plays all 90 minutes but can’t stop Sven’s new signings – Geovanni and Bianchi from finding  the net, while their newly crafted back line preserves the shutout and 3 away points

Newcastle 3, Bolton 1 – Sam Allardyce beats his former team as the Magpie offense is driven by the brace of Nigerian striker Obafemi Martins

Blackburn 2, Middlesbrough 1 – Brad Friedel worked well in a goal as usual while the young Derbyshire and new signing Roque Santa Cruz provide the goal scoring power to beat the Boro

Everton 2, Wigan Athletic 1 – Tim Howard held his own in net for the Toffees as they fought their way to a win at home thanks to a Leon Osman and young’un Victor Anichebe strike