MLS Newswire, 08.14: WWBD? DP, Salary Cap Rumors

– League or Superliga, League or Superliga? Even though I commented on it at the time (here; I’m in the comments field!), something about the nearness of relevant dates really focuses the mind; Scott French, writing on his new Around America blog, takes on the same question. Then again, word David Beckham looks likely to play in tomorrow’s Superliga semifinal against DC United may be playing a role as well. So, what’s the question (yeah, dumbass; way to bury the lead): Should the LA Beckhams focus on Superliga or getting back to the MLS playoffs? The answer: the should kick Alexi Lalas in the ding-ding for scheduling two road friendlies in October.

– On what is fast becoming a favorite site, MLS Rumors passes on some juicy stuff about MLS’s Powers That Be (MLS Board of Governors) allowing teams two DPs each and, best of all, raising the salary cap. Now, I have no freaking clue as to whether my brand-new, all-time favorite site is a hoax or not…but I wholly endorse those two agenda items regardless.

– Tucked down at the bottom of a Boston Globe article that leads with the inverse relationship between the quality of New England Revolution teams and attendance at Foxboro/Gillette, Frank Dell’Appa mentions something about Sunil Gulati’s efforts to arrange a friendly between the U.S. National Team and Asian champions Iraq. Am I alone in thinking this could be, um, an emotionally complicated “friendly?”

Superliga, Bad Sex, and the Wisdom of Midseason Breaks

As with sex, soccer tournaments rely on a kind of momentum, a slow, steady build to the climax of the final…or, in the case of sex…you know…the messy bit at the end. Somewhere in the two weeks that elapsed between the final games in the group stage and tonight’s semifinal between the Houston Dynamo and CF Pachuca, I started thinking about, I don’t know, baseball or golf or something. Whatever I’m thinking about, it ain’t Superliga.

This is all to say rhythm is a good thing. League play has the week-in, week-out that keeps things humming along. On a more relevant note, the best tournaments – think World Cup, or even the Gold Cup – plunge ahead at a dizzying, almost reckless pace, which rather pleasantly recalls the giddy frenzy of a really fantastic fling, or a relationship a-birthing; either way, the experience leaves you breathless – and that’s a good thing. The thing is, the pace doesn’t matter so long as the build-up follows certain physical rules. The Superliga, on the other hand, effectively rolled over after August 1st to watch something on TV…Major League Soccer’s (MLS) regular season perhaps?

At this point, I’m really wanting for the whole thing to end so we can get back to focusing on the league. In my experience, few phrases are less titillating than “Are you done yet?” (Said the right way, this can be positively, and literally, deflating.)

And so, once again, these factors suggest the wisdom of having a mid-summer break. And, as I see it, this is needed to give due prominence to a tournament of this kind, one that should catch Mexican fans just as they’re getting giddy about their league’s kick-off (even if that kick-off probably means they’ll subsequently ignore MLS). That same break leaves open dates for the nine – or, early as 2009, ten – teams who don’t qualify for Superliga to schedule money-spinning friendlies with European clubs looking for preseason warm-ups of their own. It doesn’t have to be much time – two weeks would suffice, while three would be ideal – but a break of some sort just makes sense.

How this will play out during World Cup, or even Gold Cup, years is something else again. The league certainly couldn’t stop for two months with regular season observers suffering from a similar kind of blue-balls experience. Maybe the league just needs to suck it up on World Cup years and make Superliga run concurrently with MLS’s regular season; maybe that’s a bad idea as well. At the same time, three good years plus one bad one beats the current format where Superliga exists as just another after-thought on the domestic calendar. I, for one, count the tournament as too good a concept to abandon.

OK, all for now. That’s not to say good stuff isn’t being written about the tournament we have: for instance, Steve Davis turned in a bang-up review for both semifinals, while J Hutcherson (standing in for a vacationing Ian Plenderleith) picks Pachuca to go through (traitor!). And I’m planning on watching the semifinal pitting DC United against the Los Angeles Galaxy…in spite of the fact I don’t think it’ll be nearly as good. Still, the whole thing would have been more “sassifying” a week ago…(clearly, I’m grumpy; just give me that pint of ice cream and leave me alone).

Tomorrow, I’ll solve the issues with the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup…or have I done that already?

Blogosphere: I Need You to Be My Eyes

In an attempt to contain my manic compulsion to read…absolutelyeverything…(which really cuts into writing time, dontcha know?), I’m moving to a new information-gathering method: relying on the blogosphere and, oh, a site or two, to keep my current on all things Major, League, and Soccer.

So, with that mind, here’s my request: If you run a blog about a specific MLS team (or, hell, I don’t care, teams) please drop me a link in the comments field.  It’s the only way I can learn now…

…and I’ve already got The Offside wired, so I’m mainly fishing for others.

Introducing, The Perspecto-Scope: MLS Week 19 (+ Goals Video)

As threatened, I’m going to make a stab today at putting Major League Soccer’s (MLS) Week 19 in perspective – just generally looking at trends in form imagined or real in a less constrained (and, puzzlingly, thorough) format than power rankings.

To start with the most tempting – and probably, the most imaginary – of trends, Houston did more than just suffer a second consecutive defeat, but they did so against Western Conference rival and third-tier team (explanation; after the rankings), the Colorado Rapids. A couple of coincidences – starting with the fact that Loss #1 came against lowly Real Salt Lake – raises the possibility that the Dynamo may have peaked too early in the season. Given the noteworthy resemblances, down even to the opponent who kicked it off, this space will hereafter refer to the phenomenon of ending a hot-streak at the wrong time and against a horrible team as “Pulling a DC.” Conventional wisdom no doubt expects a Dynamo recovery, but, in fairness, we all thought DC would pull out of last year’s late-season nose-dive as opposed to testing the theory that Christian Gomez could, in fact, win MLS Cup single-handed.

At the same time, a couple realities in Colorado points to continued futility, the first of them the fact that the Rapids didn’t even score the winning goal against Houston. But the most worrisome thing from the Rapids’ perspective comes with the sense that the formula that got them to the playoffs for the past couple seasons – e.g. solid home record – hasn’t held up for 2007. If “doomed” was a color, one could add it to the Rapids’ home claret-and-blue. Continue reading

USMNT Roster for August 22nd Clash with Sweden Set…

Rumor is Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Freddie Ljungberg, and Kim Kallstrom were all summoned for the match. If that’s the case, then they mean business… 

ROSTER BY POSITION

Goalkeepers (2) – Marcus Hahnemann (Reading FC), Tim Howard (Everton FC)

Defenders (6) – Carlos Bocanegra (Fulham FC), Jonathan Bornstein (Chivas USA), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover 96), Jay DeMerit (Watford FC), Oguchi Onyewu (Standard de Liege), Jonathan Spector (West Ham United)

Midfielders (6) – DaMarcus Beasley (Glasgow Rangers), Michael Bradley (SC Heerenveen), Bobby Convey (Reading FC), Clint Dempsey (Fulham FC), Benny Feilhaber (Derby County), Pablo Mastroeni (Colorado Rapids)

Forwards (5) – Landon Donovan (Los Angeles Galaxy), Charlie Davies (Hammarby IF), Kamani Hill (VfL Wolfsburg), Josh Wolff (1860Munich), Sal Zizzo (Hannover 96)

Nice to see Davies, Zizzo (yes, he’s more of an attacking midfielder), and Hill in there. No Freddy Adu though…not surprising really, but would have been interesting to see him. What does your starting XI look like??

UEFA Champions League: Third Qualifying Round Kicks Off

Rangers vs. Crvena Zvezda (Red Star Belgrade)
Ibrox

DaMarcus Beasley and his new club will face the Serbian champs at home in the first leg. With already one goal in the competition and the possibility of more racial taunts coming today, we could probably expect a hat-trick from Beasley (only mildly joking). Beasley and Jean-Claude Darcheville’s pace should prove invaluable and ultimately the deciding factor as (incoming generalization) most Serbian defenders have strength but little speed. If Alan Hutton can actually stay on the pitch this time, it would make it much easier for them. Red Star snuck by the Estonian champions FC Levadia Tallinn on away goals in the 2nd round of qualifying, while Rangers beat Montegrin champions FK Zeta soundly.

Benfica vs. FC Copenhagen
Estadio de Luz

The Danish champions look to spoil Freddy Adu’s potential Champions League debut. In various news sources, it looks as if Adu could get the last 20 minutes or so to work with as they stressed that he has only had 7 full days of training. Veteran Swede Marcus Allback (also a former Aston Villa striker) will be the one to cause havoc in the Benfica danger zone. Benfica will most likely not have the full service of Nuno Gomes, but looks to counter that with home advantage and hopefully an impact from new youngster Angel di Maria. Watch the young’uns shine.

Other matchs:

 Lazio vs. Dinamo Bucharest

Italian Serie A stalwarts versus the Romanian champions. Look for Goran Pandev to make his presence well known, while Dinamo will threaten with the likes of Catalin Munteanu (the La Liga/Atletico bust) and former (yet very brief) Fulham Frenchman Fabrice Fernandes.

Valencia vs. Elfsborg

Sharks vs. Minnows in this clash of the Spanish giants with the Swedish champions. Elfsborg’s drive is purely on the backs of Swedish internationals Samuel Holmen, hometown (Boras, Sweden for those asking) hero Matthias Svensson and former So’ton man Anders Svensson. Add that to the recent quenching of a 40 odd year Championship thirst last year. When compared to Quique Flores’ Los Ches, you see the contrast. David Villa, Fernando Morientes, and new signing Nikola Zigic will look to stamp out any hopes that Elfsborg has at Estadio Mestalla to reach the group stages. Zigic is a rather fresh signing though, he’ll most likely not play.