Daily Sweeper, 08.27: “Special” Playoff Edition; The Hole Where LA Once Was

– ‘Twas a subtle thing, but a couple intriguing switches hit the standings thanks to Week 21. First, Chivas USA swiped FC Dallas’ spot as one of the “Conference Seeds” out West – i.e. Chivas now sits in 2nd place in the West, which means, so long as they stay there, they’re above the fray. No less interesting is what’s happening within said fray: unless my math sucks – which could certainly happen – thanks to their horrifically bloody slaughtering of the LA Galaxy, the Colorado Rapids pipped the Columbus Crew for the eighth and final playoff spot over the weekend.

To pull out the ol’ “if the playoffs started today” thing, here’s what we’re looking at right now:

Conference Seeds: New England Revolution, DC United (East); Houston Dynamo, Chivas USA (West)

The Fray: FC Dallas, Red Bull New York, Kansas City Wizards, Colorado Rapids.

Unlike a few people, I’m late in appreciating just how groovy the New Format is: Chicago is out of the playoff picture today, and their goal-differential isn’t helping them a whole lot either, but they do sit just one point behind both Colorado and Columbus (who’s only behind the Rapids on goal differential) and they have a game in hand against both. That’s as tight a three-way race as you’re ever likely to see. Continue reading

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MLS Week 21 Perspecto-Scope: Boys Pegged; What About the Men?

Holy hell, was Week 21 a busy thing.  But for all the running, kicking, and noise, does anyone feel like they’ve got a bead on which team – or even teams – stand as best in Major League Soccer (MLS)?  I know I can’t.  On other end of the table, however, MLS’s whipping boys bared their sensitive bits to yet another thrashing, so the “boys” of the league have stepped up, or rather lain down, to be counted.

Rounding into September and the playoff push, here’s the real question about the playoffs’ first round: have the top teams made the long trek through puberty and into manhood?  Or will we all be treated to a series of boys-versus-boys dirt-clod skirmishes?

Dispensing with the “boys” who won’t even make the dirt-clod fight seems a good place to start.  Real Salt Lake (RSL) met expectations this weekend by losing on the road to a Chivas USA team that not only never loses, but that rarely concedes a goal at home.  Odds are RSL would have lost at home as well; for all the admirable fight they showed down the stretch, this simply isn’t a good team.  Speaking of which, the Los Angeles Galaxy did RSL one better by sliding past expectations on the way down to contempt: suffering a rout at the hands of a typically goal-shy Colorado Rapids all but mathematically slaps a “road-kill” stamp on the Galaxy’s 2007 season.  Finally, Toronto FC added another franchise first in their weekend loss to DC United, a stain of sorts they won’t likely get out before switching to a new kit: MLS Canadian team have, officially I believe, gone longer than any team in league history without scoring a goal.

In a sense, the wins by Chivas and Colorado tell us less about each team, than they amount to a kind of pillow mercifully smothering the miniscule flickers of life left in their hapless opponents; it doesn’t take a lot to beat on the infirm.  DC is another story, though, and I’ll get to that below.  Even so, I’d be getting nervous about Chivas if played for or coached FC Dallas and the Houston Dynamo. Continue reading

United States U-17’s Seep Through the Cracks, Face Germany

Round of 16

Spain vs. People’s Republic of Korea (8/29)
Tunisia vs. France (8/29)
Peru vs. Tajikistan (8/29)
Ghana vs. Brazil (8/29) – an intriguing match-up of two dominant youth squads whose senior squads happen to play each other at this point of the 2006 WC in Germany

Argentina vs. Costa Rica (8/30)
Nigeria vs. Colombia (8/30)
England vs. Syria (8/30)
United States vs. Germany (8/30)

Quarterfinals to be played Sept 1st and Sept 2th, 2007
Semifinals to be played Sept 5th and Sept 6th, 2007
Consolation to be played Sept 9th, 2007
Finals to be played Sept 9th, 2007

The US Under-17s got the win they needed with a 2-0 shutout of a 10-man Belgian squad. As seen above, the Americans will take on a tough German squad who advanced out of Group F by defeating quality squads from Colombia and Ghana, while the US boys went through on Goals For as their Goal Differential of -1 was tied with Tajikistan. Alex Nimo has been real quiet through out the group stages and they’re going to have to find him if they plan to beat Germany. Next round opponents would either be England or Syria.

French Ligue One: Monaco, Lyon, Marseille all win, but PSG falls off pace…again

Lyon scraped by Saint Etienne in the battle of the local rivals – young’un Karim Benzema provided the lone strike in the 53rd minute. A win at home but they still don’t look like themselves – if it weren’t for the good play of back-up keeper Remy Vercoutre, Lyon could have been looking at an unfamiliar spot in the standings. Both Freddy Guarin (a second-half sub) and new signing Blaise Matuidi (on Domenech’s rader for Les Bleus) kept up good form for Les Verts.

Paris Saint-Germain is held yet again to a tie, this time a 1-1 draw with Lille. Cameroonian Jean Makoun (a long-time PSG, Lyon transfer target) put Lille up first in early in the second half. Pauleta – the normally prolific Portuguese striker who has lost his touch this season – had a chance to equalize on a PK in the 71st minute when Amara Diane was taken down in the box. Pauleta was saved by the heroics of Pierre-Alain Frau – who found the net three minutes later. Both sides were gifted several opportunities in a game that lacked any finishing prowess.

Strasbourg defeated Lens 2-1 as Wason Renteria – young Colombian striker, just recently signed – was the star of the show. Renteria put Strasbourg up early in the second half to beat a quality Racing Lens squad.

Olympique Marseille took care of their business in Caen with a 2-1 win in an attempt to keep early-season tabs on Lyon. Mamadou Niang and Julien Rodriguez struck to ensure the victory. Caen’s goal was a last gasp strike as Marseille dictated the pace and play of most of the game.

Monaco got a win as well by scoring three unanswered goals after Daisuke Matsui’s opening strike for to put Le Mans in the lead 1-0. Frederic Piquionne (diva), Jeremy Menez, and Leandro Cufre did the damage as Monaco now sits in third (light years away from where they were last year).

Olivier Thomert played the role of hero in Rennes 2-0 win over Metz, scoring both goals. One in each half. His performance earned him CHI’s Player of the Week to join Johann Audel and Rafik Saifi in that category.

Olivier Thomert

David Bellion had the chance for an easy hat-trick but wasted his penalty strike as Les Girondins des Bordeaux could only manage a 2-2 tie against Lorient. I guess if you look on the bright side, Bellion (the former Man Utd youth star) did strike for two. Lorient’s resilience makes them the surprise 2nd place team in the standings.

Nancy kept first place in Ligue One by using four different scorers to pace a 4-1 win over Auxerre, who has started off this season pitifully.

Valenciennes beat Sochaux 3-1 as they continue to prove that they deserve to be in Ligue One as they were last year’s Reading of the Ligue One. Last year’s leading goalscorer Steve Savidan capped the win with his strike in the 75th minute.

Nice and Toulouse played to a 1-1 draw as Toulouse’s minds were clearly looking forward to the Champions League clash at midweek against Liverpool.

French Ligue One Standings

La Liga Wrap Up–Jornada 1

The first Jornada of La Liga is behind us, and it was a weekend filled with some great football, but seemingly overshadowed by the current situation with Puerta in Sevilla. Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid was not televised anywhere as the cable rights war is still going on between Audiovisual and Mediapro in Spain.

Real Madrid 2-Atletico Madrid 1
Atletico: Agüero 00′ (1)
Real Madrid: Raul 14′ (1) Sneijder 79′ (1)
Atletico Madrid came out to a lead on a header by Sergio Agüero, but the Madridistas would not be stopped as they countered with 2 goals by Raul and by newcomer Wesley Sneijder to take the win. Leo Franco should have stopped the last goal by Sneijder, but was screened by his own player in the process.

It was a shame not to be able to watch the Derbi as they are always entertaining. I wanted to see Diego Forlan shine for his new club, and also see how the new Real Madrid team does under Schuster.

Sevilla FC 4-Getafe 1
Getafe: P. Hernandez 2′(1)
Sevilla FC: Jesus Navas 45′ (1) Luis Fabiano 66′ (1) Kanouté 69′ (1) Kerzhakov 81′ (1)

A goal by Pablo Hernandez in the 2nd minute stunned the Sevilla side at home in the Sanchez Pizjuan. Hernandez cooly slotted home a set piece over the wall and into the left side of the goal, leaving keeper Andres Palop with no chance.

Sevilla controlled the ball well in the first half, but Getafe looked determined to avenge their defeat in the Copa del Rey final, attacking fearlessly in the first 20 minutes.

The wheels came off the Getafe bus when Sousa was sent off with two consecutive yellow cards. One for dissent on a clear non-penality call, and the second for what the referee deemed a deliberate handball on a Kanoute cross. Cortez was then sent off for a horrendously late challenge on Diego Capel on the left hand side, putting Getafe 2 men down.

Sevilla mounted a comeback in the second half, scoring 4 unanswered goals on a powerless Getafe defense. Duda was without a doubt the man-of-the-match, whipping in ball after ball from the left hand side, contributing on 3 of the goals scored in the game.

The game was overshadowed by the incident with Antonio Puerta, who is still in critical condition.

Real Murcia 2-Zaragoza 1
Real Murcia: Mejia 16′ (1) Baiano 68′ (1)
Zaragoza: Oiviera 29′ (1)

Newly promoted Real Murcia took the lead on a goal by Mejia on a pass by Pablo Garcia. Oliviera countered with a chip over Murcia keeper Notario.

Zaragoza dominated the play in the second half, but couldn’t mount a sustained attack and instead played a possession game. Murcia took the lead for good on a goal by Baiano, who again was set up by Pablo Garcia.

Continue reading

Sevilla’s Antonio Puerta is in a Fight For His Life

With my Sevilla scarf proudly wrapped around my neck on Saturday, I watched one of the scariest things I have seen in my football career.

During the Sevilla-Getafe match, Sevilla fullback Antonio Puerta collapsed on the field after running back to defend a Getafe counter attack. When Puerta hit the ground, he was unconscious and worse, he was beginning to swallow his tongue. Teammate Ivan Dragutinovic saw Puerta hit the ground, ran over to his side, and pried his jaw open in order to grab his tongue so he did not affixiate as the medical staff for Sevilla rushed onto the field.

Mind you…this was all on live TV.

As the medical staff reached Puerta, he sat up and walked off the pitch under his own power, seemingly alright, but with something obviously wrong.

Puerta made it back to the dressing room, but his heart stopped again and CPR was preformed on him before rushing him to El hospital Virgen del Rocio, in Sevilla.

He suffered two more stoppages of his heart in the hospital while being treated by doctors attempting to find the cause of the problem.

Doctors report that Puerta is in what we would call ‘critical but stable’ condition at the moment. His breathing is being assisted by a respirator for fear that his heart will stop again and he will quit breathing. He is also under heavy sedatives so that he does not awake as they run tests to see what is the cause of the problem.

Last season, Puerta had a ‘heart’ problem, but passed rigorous doctor and medical tests to return to action. Doctors are looking to see if this is related to his current condition, but have not released any more info as of yet.

Real Betis, Sevilla’s eternal rivals, have issued a statement wishing for a speedy recovery, along with the rest of the Spanish Footballing Community.

As more information becomes available, I will make sure to have it here.

It is a shame to say, but times like this show that our favorite players are not invincible as we think they are. And even if they do miss goals from 2 feet away, they are still people, and bad things can happen.

If you want to send your words of encouragement to Puerta, email puertaestamoscontigo@sevillafc.es

Please join me and the Spanish community and keep Antonio Puerta in your prayers.

Jason Kreis’ Mind – and a Message to a Merciful God

During the last 15 minutes of Chivas USA’s win over Real Salt Lake (RSL), the camera panned briefly to RSL coach Jason Kreis. At some point during that time, he wore the expression of a man mulling over his life: his past, his predicament, and the moment. And as he thought, a flicker of relief lighted into his expression – maybe a slight lift in his eyebrows, maybe the tiniest curl in one corner of his lips. It wasn’t much, but something showed.

For my money – and I can’t say I know for sure – I think that, in that moment, Kreis said to himself, “Could be worse. I could be Frank Yallop.”

3-0. To Colorado (red-hot Rapids? The main site said it; I swear. The Los Angeles Galaxy made the Rapids look like an offensive superpower. Conor Casey scored for fuck’s sake, and on a good move.

Please, please: someone pull the plug in LA. We’re in flaming puppy territory.