MLS Newswire, 08.15: Trades, Optimism, Pessimism

I tell you, I have the self-control of a two-year-old – a drunk two-year-old at that.  That’s why I’m ditching the thee-item limit on these posts.  I have no excuse…

– A noteworthy trade, plus one shock to report: Ramon Nunez is leaving FC Dallas, the team he was tasked with carrying in 2007 before things fell apart for him, for Chivas USA.  It’s not like Nunez was logging major minutes for FCD, but given the season began with so much promise, this one still throws me a little.  First word on this came to me through WVHooligan, but I’ll credit 3rd Degree with the confirmation.  Now comes  the shocker: Steve Goff reports that the New England Revolution appears to be adding players outside the draft….gasp!

– Speaking of both FCD and 3rd Degree, the latter pulled together an in-season review on what Dallas coach Steve Morrow has done with his team (for the record, good stuff).  And let the record show that I agree with Steve Morrow on the depth issue; in fact, I credit that depth for Dallas looking good as they are.

– Looking for a Guillermo Barros Schelotto love-fest?  Sports Illustrated obliges; the interview, in particular, contains some nuggets with the best of them coming after the jump.

– Speaking of SI, Grant Wahl opens his mailbag and opines on a number of things, the most interesting of them being confirmation of the suspicions I mentioned yesterday about how an Iraq-U.S. friendly would go down; the most useful item is an explanation of player eligibility for national teams.

– Finally, are feeling good about where MLS is these days?  Wanna stop?

MLS Week 19 Power Rankings

I’m going to level with you here: #1-4 are basically interchangeable; ditto with #5-8 and #9-13; my fascination with my collective rankings thing-y is the only reason I’m assigning specific numbers. In truth, I see those three tiers just outlined as a more accurate measure of each team’s relative “power.” And bye weeks? Those things are killing me. How can I justify, for instance, dropping KC two spots on a week they didn’t play? I can’t. Seriously.

So, for what they’re worth, here are my rankings and the best defense I can muster for each. Once again, the belief that a team higher in the rankings will beat the one below stands as the guiding principle here. And last week’s ranking appears in parentheses after this week’s. Whoops. And I just remembered this morning that I used to add current standings at the end of the rankings on the old site; call that a fine tradition discontinued (but enjoy the current standings).

1. (3) DC United
With everyone else seeming to favor Dallas, I’m going weird on this one. Why? Yeah, it was against LA, but DC looked very tight and smart against them; I think they’re about to start rolling.

2. (4) FC Dallas
As much as I loved the fight and depth they showed against the Crew, the reality is the Ohio club was the better team in the first half. Dallas has its weaknesses. Still, I did raise them two spots over last week…so lay off…

3. (2) New England Revolution
Why do I hate my team so much? Can’t say for sure. Maybe it’s that I find them boring. But, more significantly, it’s that casual air about them in front of goal that leads me to doubt this team. And that’s even accounting for my serious man-crush on Pat Noonan.
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Superliga: Pachuca edges Houston….[buffering]

Here, courtesy of the Superliga site’s feed and the DSL set-up I have at home, is a re-enactment, edited for brevity, of how I viewed last night’s semifinal between the Houston Dynamo and CF Pachuca. Viewing started around the 47th minute (this is translated from Spanish):

Houston on the ba….Barrett passes up the….


Pachuca on the atta…..ball centered into the area, Jimen….Houston in possession at the midfiel….tly intercepted by…Ching runs it dow….


GOOO………ALLLLLLL!!!!!! GO……..ALLL!! Pachuca 2, Houston….

[buffering; me, “What the fuck just happened?!”]

Free kick for Hou….


GOOOAALLLL!!! Houston Dynamo have leveled the score through Eddie Robinson! As the ball gets played in, Robinson breaks to the center of the goal and simply out-muscled the defender (NOTE: For some reason, the feed worked pretty well around this time.)

Ball back in pl….

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UEFA Champions League: Beasley, Adu and fifty more matches for you.

Yesterday’s Games 


Rangers 1, Crvena Zvezda 0

A last gasp Nacho Novo strike helped Rangers survive a physical onslaught and leave Ibrox with a 1 goal lead and a firm away goal advantage (in the sense that they kept Red Star to zero). DaMarcus Beasley worked a solid 70 minutes or so getting beaten, punched, and dropkicked along the way.

Benfica 2, FC Copenhagen 1

We all expected minutes, but I don’t think anyone expected Freddy Adu to enter Champions League competition just 37 minutes into his first match. The 18-year old had his problems – mostly nerves and positioning issues – but at times seemed to really flow with the game, which unfortunately was not up to snuff for a Benfica that knows they’re much better than that how they played. Portuguese great Rui Costa provided the brace – one in the first and one in the second half – to help Benfica head to Copenhagen with a goal lead in tow. Canadian Atiba Hutchinson got the goal for Copenhagen.


Lazio 1, Dinamo Bucharest 1

The Romanian champions head back home feeling good about this one as Lazio, as I heard, looked like utter crap. It certainly didn’t help matters in the last 20 minutes when 2 men were sent off – goalscorer Massimo Mutarelli (2nd caution) and Valon Behrami (straight red). True star of the game was Dinamo goalie Bogdon Lobont – long time Romanian international – as he was bombarded throughout much of the game and kept the Romanians in it.


Valencia 3, Elfsborg 0

Vicente, David Villa, and Fernando Morientes provided the firepower, while Elfsborg fizzled away from home. I had mentioned the word minnows and they played like some. The score should have been 5, 6 to nothing but the Valencia frontmen missed several sitters. Expect Valencia to make it to the semifinals this year – on the performances of Silva, Vicente, Villa, Morientes…wow, these guys could



Toulouse vs. Liverpool

Rafa and his new boys will be tested by a Toulouse team coming off a sound victory over defending champs Olympique Lyonnais.


Spartak Moscow vs. Celtic

I can see Spartak winning this one and eventually moving on as Celtic hasn’t caught their stride as of yet.


Tampere United vs. Rosenborg

The Finnish champions versus the Norwegian champions in an all-out, down-and-dirty Scandinavian battle.


BATE Borisov vs. Steaua Bucharest

Bulgarian champions versus the Romanian runner-ups…not many will be watching this game, but if Steaua plays anything like Dinamo Bucharest did yesterday – it could be a good one.


Fenerbahce vs. Anderlecht

Roberto Carlos’ new squad looks to dispatch of the Belgian champions and probably will do so.


FK Sarajevo vs. Dynamo Kiev

I love these Eastern European match-ups, but look for Shevchenko’s Kiev to dominate in this one.


FC Zurich vs. Besiktas

Switzerland vs. Turkey. Zurich looks to rebound after starting the Swiss Super League season off with a loss.


Ajax vs. Slavia Prague

Ajax is very vulnerable right now – getting thoroughly destroyed in the transfer market by fellow Eredivisie contenders. A new transfer kitty, however, came in with the sale of Wesley Sneijder for $37 million. Does that effect this game? No. Not yet at least.


Red Bull Salzburg vs. Shakhtar Donetsk

The Ukranian powerhouse now boasts Copa America’s and the Gold Cup’s revelation – Nery Castillo and they look to use that against the Austrian champions.


Werder Bremen vs. Dinamo Zagreb

Bremen lost a lot this offseason but still should have enough to beat Dinamo at home. Away – however – is a different matter.


FC Sevilla vs. AEK Athens

Ryan’s team takes on a new-look AEK Athens team who lured Rivaldo from Greek champions Olympiakos. Frederic Kanoute, however, signed on until 2010 boosting the morale and calming the nerves of many supporters. Look for Sevilla to show they’re ready for the upcoming season.


Sparta Prague vs. Arsenal

Everybody is talking about how Arsenal is going to have an even worse year than last year. They could be right – and Sparta Praha certainly isn’t going to help one bit. It’s Tomas Rosicky vs. his old team.

The 2nd Leg of the Third Round of Qualifying will take place on August 28th and 29th, 2007.

Alves set to sign for Chelsea

Say it isn’t so Dani, say it isn’t so.

It’s reported by and ESPNSoccernet that Dani Alves is all set to sign with Chelsea for 32 Million Euro plus an extra 4 Million Euro depending on how he preforms this season. Mind you that he HASN’T signed yet for Chelsea, but it appears that it will happen soon, very soon.

This comes as Alves was left off of the team for the Champions League matchup against AEK Athens tomorrow. This allows Alves to play in the Champions League with Chelsea, if he does indeed sign at Stamford Bridge.

Sevilla skipper, Juande Ramos said

‘Alves is not on the list,’ Ramos told a news conference on the eve of the match. ‘He told me he was not in the right condition to play and I have informed the club about the situation.

‘Daniel is an influential player and the fact that clubs of the stature of Chelsea and Real Madrid are after him shows how important he is,

His departure for the would be the only logical reason that he is not playing tomorrow as he has no injuries to report and always was a loyal player for Sevilla

This is a huge blow for the Sevillistas, especially with Julien Escudé still out with a groin injury. I won’t even mention anyone that could ‘replace’ Alves, but it will have to be done across the entire back four (ie Bouhlarouz and Moqueda)

Dani Alves has been a cornerstone for Sevilla since coming to the team in 2004. Most recently, Alves was crucial in Sevilla’s back to back UEFA Cups and Copa del Rey win in 2007.

I for one will sorely miss Dani Alves, and wish him all the best at Chelsea.

At least the weather is better in England..oh wait.

La Liga Preview—Real Valladolid, UD Almeria, Real Murcia

For the past few weeks I have combed the paella and sangria filled landscape that is Spain to come up with a definitive La Liga preview. For the most part, La Liga coverage in English is a bit difficult to find, so I have had to do lots of digging to figure out what is going on with the teams that have ascended into La Liga from the Segunda Division last season. However, there is no shortage of talk about La Liga in Spanish, thus I do a good deal of time trolling the Spanish dailies and team forums to get all the goods. It was so much easier when I lived there.

In all of the previews, I’ll give you the team, stadium, nicknames, who’s out, who’s in and what is going on. I don’t give starting 11’s because I’m shockingly bad at that.

Your teams today are the newly promoted sides, Real Valladolid, Almeria, and Murcia.


Real Valladolid (Liga BBVA champions in 2006)

Stadium: Jose Zorilla

Nicknames: Los Pucelanos

Interesting Fact: Rafa Benitez’s former squad for the 95-96 season.

In: Sisi (Valencia) Butelle (Valencia) Alberto Vivar Dorado (Getafe) Estoyanoff (Deportivo) Diego Camacho (Levante) Ogbeche (Alavés)

Out: Chema, De la Cuesta, Gonzalo Vicente, Mario Suárez, Toché, Manchev

Here’s…a team in Violet?

The Blanquivioletas look to make a mark this season in La Liga after winning the Segunda Division last season. This Valladolid team is the 2.0 version of last year, returning midfielders Rafa and Kome along with Oscar Sanchez and the few ‘canteranos’ (players who have came through the club’s system). The rest of the team this season is new under the watchful eye of Jose Luis Mendlilibar, who guided this team to the Primera Division last season. Victor was the second leading score in Liga BBVA last season with 19 goals, and Llorente was tied for 3rd with 18.

Stayin’ Alive

As is the question with most teams acending,, can Valladolid stay up in La Liga.. I haven’t seen enough of them last season to vouch for their ability, but guessing that they have bought an entirely new team this offseason, we should know early on how they will match up with the big boys. Valladolid have gone unbeaten this pre-season and were saved in last week’s game against Cultural Leonesa by spectacular goalkeeping by Butelle, who backed up Canizares at Valencia last season. They have went the way of Chelsea and have picked up some injuries this offseason with Jesús, Iñaki Bea, Álvaro and Baraja all getting banged up this pre-season. Most are reported by the team to be ready come the beginning of La Liga.

Survey Says

I don’t see them being relegated this season as there are worse teams out there in La Liga. I look for them to give a few of the bottom teams trouble during the season and not to be a pushover as many peg them as being. They have brought on two good players in Estoyanoff and Ogbeche, who both have great pace and should fit in well in Valladolid. Caminero says that the league will be a battle of up to eight teams and the rest will be fighting to stay out of relegation.

I say don’t look for the pucelanos to be out of La Liga this season.

First Three Games:

@ Espanyol, Deportivo, @ Valencia


UD Almeria (second in Liga BBVA in 2006)

Stadium: Estado de los Juegos Mediterráneos

Nicknames: Rojiblanco (like everyone)

Interesting Fact: The team was only founded in 2001 after combining Almería CF and Polideportivo Almería into one club.

In: Ortiz (Pol. Ejido) Felipe Melo (Racing) López Rekarte (Real Sociedad) Natalio (Castellón)Corona (Zaragoza) Dimas (Barcelona) Negredo (R. M. Castilla) Pulido (Getafe) Cobeño (Sevilla) Juanito (R. Sociedad) Diego (Atl. Mineiro) Julio dos Santos (Bayern), Mathais Vidangossy (Villareal)

Out: Valerio, De Palmas, Rodri, Larrea, Mena

The Youngins of La Liga

Without a doubt, Almeria are the youngest team in La Liga, only being founded in 2001. That does not make them less dangerous or cast any doubt on this team, who look to make an impact this season. Lead by Unai Emery, Almeria have brought on a considerable amount of players to this squad, as is the case with any team moving to the top flight in their country. They were also the leading goal-scorers (73) in La Liga BBVA last season, a trend that they hope to continue this season.

Sharing the load

Unlike most teams, where there is one central goalscorer, Almeria have a ‘triple threat’ of Míchel (13 goals) Ortiz (10 goals) and Crusat (10 goals). This could hurt them in La Liga, where one striker can make a difference, i.e a Ronaldinho type player. But, Mario Bermejo y Kalu Uche also can score upfront, making the Almeria striking contingent five men deep. Not something most teams can compete with. Newcomer Álvaro Negredo netted 4 goals in one game this pre-season, giving Almeria even more of a punch upfront. But too make cooks can spoil the broth.

On the contrary, there defense gave up 49 goals last season, only Tenerife who finished 7th gave up more goals in the top ten. Almeria will need to do some tightning up in the back to last in La Liga this season. Not much is being said about their back four, which can never bode well for a club. It looks like Emery’s stratgey is to win games by scoring in droves, and not by defending.

Survey Says

I say Almeria give it a great run, but there defending and goalkeeping let them down as they can put the ball in the back of the net, but cannot defend it. Sorry Almeria, it looks to be one and done for you this season.

First Three Games:

@ Deportivo, Valencia, @ Real Madrid


Real Murcia (Third in La Liga BBVA in 2006)

Stadium: La Nueva Condomina

Nicknames: Los Pimentoneros

Interesting Fact:  Team was once coached by Ferenc Puskás, legendary Hungarian striker for Real Madrid who netted 84 goals in 83 games for Hungary.

In: Íñigo (Éibar) Arzo (Recreativo) De Lucas (Alavés) Goitom (Udinese) Regueiro (Valencia) Carini (Inter) Pablo García (Real Madrid) Mejía (Real Madrid) Carini (Inter) Curro Torres (Valencia) Baiano (Celta)

Out: Juanmi, Emerson, Capi, Lledó, Aranda, Carrera, Pablo Ruiz, Antoñito, Pedro León (Levante)

This club is ready…most notably the coach.

Simply by looking at the websites, you know that Real Murcia mean business in their first chance at Top Flight football in the club’s history. They have entire video packages put together talking about last year’s season and the fans seem to be hungry to stay up-top for years to come.

The team is unbeaten in three pre-season games, most notably a 6-0 rolling of Anderlecht. Real Murcia will be lead by Luis Lucas Alcaraz González who is in his second season with los pimentonteros.

As with the other 2 teams promoted this season, Real Murcia have brought in 11 new players to the squad, which is an incredible amount of new faces. My first question is will there be enough time in the pre-season for the newcomers to gel together to form a cohesive unit? Gonzales mentions this point, saying he believes the team is still growing, but ‘there are some players that haven’t reached the same level as others, so the entire group still isn’t a unit.’

This is a coach who is very critical of his side and has an idea of what it takes to survive in La Liga.

What they will bring to the table

Real Murcia aquired Hector Fabian Carini, fresh off of a championship with Inter Milan last season. He will be holding down the fort in the back. They signed Fernando Baiano from Celta, who they should have starting in the front come the start of the season along with already established Ivan Alonzo who netted 14 goals last season. Curro Torres, over from Valencia will start as a outside fullback and looks to have an impact this season. Real Murcia are still pressing over signing Josué, a Brazilian national, but are stuck in negotiation on bringing him to Spain this season.

Survey Says

Real Murcia are looking to stay in the top-flight this year and have brought on the players to make it happen. As for most of the teams coming up to La Liga, it is difficult to say just what will happen this year. Los pimentoneros are my wild card this season. I’m reserving judgement on them until I predict where each team will be right before the beginning of the La Liga season. I’m excited about watching and learning about them as the year progresses. I’m all for small clubs building new stadiums and expanding their fan base in order to grow and succeed. The jury is out.

First Three Games

Zaragosa, @ Levante, Atlético