Daily Sweeper, 08.28: Plenderleith Rains on Parade; Alexi Speaks, Doesn’t Make Sense

Some days I understand why Brucio from du Nord just goes wacky with the links.  There’s a hell of a lot out there.

– Ian Plenderleith closed his FC Dallas celebration for USSoccerplayers.com by (merrily?) grumbling about last week’s Wunder Rumor about Frank Yallop stepping down and Jurgen Klinsmann stepping in to save the LA Galaxy.  Now, I can’t even remember what I wrote any more (here it is, moron), but, I really doubt I underlined the “rumor” nature of the item.  For the record, though, I didn’t think this one would come together – at least the piece with Klinsmann.  For me, it was just fun, fun, fun; an opportunity to dump more silly abuse on Alexi Lalas and much, much more.  And that’s what rumors in soccer are: fun.  Dammit.

Wild speculation and unsupported rumors make me feel like I’m following a grown-up league.  Think of the English press.

– Speaking of Alexi “The Gift That Keeps On Giving” Lalas, he threw out a priceless quote about the Los Angeles Galaxy’s schedule (from the LA Galaxy Offside):

“We have bent over backwards to help everybody but the Galaxy. A lot of people have made a tremendous amount of money on the back of what the Galaxy, with David, has brought to their markets this year and I hope that they remember that. The travelling, the number of games, the lack of consistent scheduling – no other team has had to put up with that.”

Where is he going with this?  It reads as if he’s saying each of the MLS teams that benefited from a Beckham-inspired game-day gate should hand the Galaxy, say, a point, maybe two.  While I know he’s probably looking to getting some breaks next season, it’s more fun to view this as a caged-animal kind of quote and to take the quote as I read it.  The Offside Rules had fun with this one as well.

– KC might – or might not – have found a new home for the 2008 season.  Here’s a look from the outfield….by which phrasing I am, in fact, informing you that one possibility for a home includes sharing a pad with the local minor league team.  So, it’s tiny and baseball-filled, but do note they intend to announce progress on a soccer-specific home for the Wizards when they announce next year’s venue.

– Working along a vein similar to the one with which I closed this week’s power rankings, Red Bull Rising offers a high-quality snapshot look at the playoff picture.  He one-ups me by noting some significant games down the line (oh yeah…well, I one-up him by offering a more detailed look at the relative current fortunes for the bubble teams…so…so there!).  Oh, and if the opinions of two random dudes separated by a continent constitutes conventional wisdom, our breakdowns, in terms of which teams fall into which group, match perfectly.

– By way of closing, I want to commend RSLFM for the image that tops today’s post (the content ain’t bad, either).  Wish I had the savvy to do that kind of stuff.

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Antonio Puerta has passed away

Antonio Jose Puerta Perez

November 26, 1984-August 28, 2007

Sevilla’s Antonio Puerta has passed away at 2:30 local Spanish time on Tuesday in Sevilla’s Virgin del Rocio hospital.A statement from the hospital reads as follows.

‘We regret to report that the patient Antonio Puerta died at 1430 (1230 GMT) today. The death was caused by postanoxic encephalopathy and a multiple failure of his organs caused by the prolonged cardiac arrest that provoked his admission to hospital,’

In keeping with Spanish cultural traditions, the burial will take place at 2:00 Spanish time on Wednesday. In Spanish culture, bodies are buried within 48 hours of death, but most usually taking place within 24 hours.

‘Today is one of the saddest days in the history of Sevilla Football Club,’ A tearful Sevilla president Jose Maria del Nido told reporters.

‘That diamond left foot of Antonio Puerta’s has left us, that left foot that changed our lives has left us’

Sevilla were slated to play AEK Athens in the return-leg of the Champions League 3rd Round qualifiers today, but that game has been canceled and will be postponed.

However, Friday’s European Super Cup will go on but the game will be a tribute to the life of Antonio Puerta. Milan are prepared to cancel the game if necessary, but I see the game going on as planned as it would be a fitting tribute to Puerta and all he stood for.

Sevilla FC said in a statement,

“estará amortajado con una bandera del Sevilla, y también se colocará una bandera de España, que simbolizará su internacionalidad, y, a sus pies, todos los títulos que conquistó con el equipo que amó desde que tuvo uso de conciencia”,

Descanse en paz Antonio Puerta y bendito sea.

Es por eso que hoy vengo a verte…Sevillista sere hasta la muerte.

MLS Week 21 Power Rankings: Tiers of Clowns

Dang me, but those troubling philosophical questions won’t stop coming. Why do I continue ranking these teams by number knowing that, in my head, Major League Soccer’s (MLS) 13 teams actually cluster into “quality tiers” – i.e. groups of one, two, even four teams? The reality is the teams don’t line up in neat little numbers; whether that’s down to parity, fatigue, or mischievous gods playing tricks on, say, Jon Conway, I just can’t say. How to account for the sudden decline into impotent madness for some teams and the discovery of untapped ability in others? Is this just a manic-depressive league?

I’ll outline a clearer, more accurate breakdown of the league after I continue with the charade of specific power rankings. My mania for collective rankings must be fed…

As always, each team’s ranking from the previous week appears in parentheses after the current week’s. And, if you hit the links, you might get the impression I view the schedule as the ultimate source of wisdom…that’s not far wrong.

1. (1) DC United
This one is pretty simple: two wins with a 4-1 margin on goals in favor. No, I didn’t see the game against TFC where I read DC was average. In every game in which I’ve recently watched DC, however, they’ve looked better than the rest.

2. (3) FC Dallas
It’s wise to lay low sometimes…not that FCD chose to do so. I’m giving ‘em bonus points for signing Denilson; I’m not sure the Brazilian will pan out for them, but the move shows ambition at least.

3. (2) New England Revolution
A win is a win. They looked like crap – and have for a while, so far as I’m concerned – but they’re very much in the hunt. Continue reading

CHI’s NCAA DI 2007 Men’s Soccer Season Preview

CHI’s NCAA Men’s Preseason Division I Top 25

ncaasoccer.jpg

(in all honesty it’s an aggregate of Top Drawer Soccer’s and the NSCAA’s)

Updated Aug. 14, 2007
CHI Rank) Average-NSCAA Rank-TDS Rank School [2006 Record]

1) 2.5-1-4 UCSB [17-7-0]

The Gauchos – as returning NCAA champions – take the honor of pre-season #1 knowing full well that a hard season lies ahead. After starting the 2006 season only 7-6, someone – most notably head coach Tim Vom Steeg – delivered a firm kick in the ass to the Gaucho squad and worked them into winning 11 out of the next 12 games and the NCAA Tourney. They lose 5 of their starting 11, but reinforcements have been called in. Transfer Ciaran O’Brien will shore up the midfield which lost a talented member in Tyler Rosenlund. Bryan Byrne (graduation/Revs) and Kyle Reynish (RSL) have moved on but a capable keeper in Bryant Reuckner – who is capped at the U-17 level – and forwards Tino Nunez and Andrew Proctor will certainly suffice. The key to the Gauchos is their quality of depth and it will be vital in their bid to repeat.

2) 2.5-3-2 UCLA [14-6-4]

Another extremely deep and talented squad returns a hungry bunch looking to overthrow the Gauchos at the top. Yes, wide man Sal Zizzo has gone to Hannover 96 in Germany and Kiel McClung graduated to the California Victory, but UCLA still has a wealth of options at their disposal. At forward, with 25 goals between them, David Estrada, Jason Leopoldo, and Maxwell Griffin look to produce even more this year. U20 WC defender Tony Beltran earned vital experience and will look to translate to the collegiate playing field, while Brian Perk – the Pan-Am games starter – will man the nets nobly. Who will serve them though? No problem – Kyle Nakazawa returns with 8 assists last year while defenders (though they sometimes move up) Brandon Owens and Greg Folk help the cause. The Bruins are my pre-season pick for NCAA Champions of 2007.

3) 2.5-1-4 Duke [18-4-1]

Though picked as the ACC favorite to win and returning ACC champs, the Blue Devils were shunned by the NSCAA falling a place under fellow-ACCers Wake Forest. The talent-rich Duke squad is led by pre-season All-Americans Michael Videira and Mike Grella. Ranked as high as 2nd in other pre-season polls, the Devils dropped a preseason result to Coastal Carolina while beating #25 UConn 1-0 on Aug 25th. They’ll have to deal with the loss of Chris Loftus to the New England Revolution and Kyle Helton to the pro ranks as well. Their goal: to improve upon last year’s Final Four appearance where they lost in overtime, 3-2 to the eventual runner-ups – UCLA.

4) 3.5-2-5 Virginia [17-4-1]

The third of six ACC reps in the Preseason Top 20. The Cavs have lost a lot, almost to the point that it makes this 5th place ranking a bit wondrous. Their most important losses were to MLS clubs – Bakary Soumare (Chicago), Nico Colaluca (Colorado), and Adam Cristman (Revs). All are performing well for their respective pro clubs, while the only silver lining seems to be the return of German import Yannick Reyering who was the team scoring leader last season with 12 goals. Not to mention, the #1 recruit of last year’s freshman class – Jonathan Villanueva who has starred at the U-17 and U-15 levels for US Soccer. Only time will tell for the Cavs, but on paper more is lost then coming in. The progress of Reyering and Villanueva is crucial, while the midfield will be captained by junior midfielder Jeremy Barlow who recently scored the lone goal in an exhibition win over South Florida. Amidst all my skepticism about UVA’s prospects, one can never bet against the true star of the team – coach George Gelnovatch. Is another Final Four appearance feasible though? Sure.

5) 5-7-3 Wake Forest [18-3-4]

The Demon Deacons lost a good crop of talent to the pro ranks this off-season as Ryan Solle (Revs), Wells Thompson (Revs), and Stephen Curfman (Revs) all left to try their hand at the bigs. The progress of midfielder and South Jersey native Jamie Franks and U-20 wingback Julian Valentin are a virtual must in order for the Deacons to move forward this year. Their defense and striker corps ranks among the nation’s best (even with the losses), but the midfield needs to improve readily to warrant a 3rd place ranking.

6) 5.5-5-6 Santa Clara [13-5-5]A total of three Broncos took part in the Pan-American games this past July, which sizes up their squad’s youth nicely. That crew is led by the immensely talented incoming freshman duo of Janil Anibaba and GK Kevin Klasila. The team is led, however, by Hermann Trophy watch list senior midfielder Peter Lowry. The losses are felt though as Amaechi Igwe went pro to D.C. United, Erick Ustruck graduated to Houston, and forward Keith DeVey graduated as well. Defender Matt Hatzke (younger brother of Nick, Houston Dynamo player) and soph midfielder Stephen McCarthy look not let it effect the Broncos too much as they try and re-spark the dominance Santa Clara once had.

7) 7-6-8 SMU [17-2-4]

Poised to do great things last year, but a little bad luck and a lack of results led the once top-ranked team in the nation to fizzle out in the NCAA Tourney. The Mustangs did win Conference-USA somewhat easily and look to do it again this year with the help of junior midfielder and C-USA Player of the Year Bruno Guarda. Anyone would also feel safe with U-20 WC back up Steve Sandbo in net and even more so with All C-USA defender Adrian Chevannes there to protect him. Unfortunately – Sandbo was a back-up to a great goalkeeper in Matt Wideman and Guarda’s production can’t beat that of striker/attacking mid Chase Wileman who moved into the pro ranks after scoring 8 goals and notching 13 assists last year. Chevannes also partners with Jay Needham, now in the USL after refusing to sign with MLS powerhouse D.C. United. The Mustangs, regardless, should rise again and some stars will definitely inch out of the woodwork with the upcoming season.

8] 9.5-12-7 Indiana [15-5-2]

U-20 WC standout Ofori Sarkodie headlines a healthy Hoosier squad which also includes two potent forwards in the form of soph Darren Yeagle and jr. Brian Ackley who both had 7 goals last season. Add a good recruiting class and you have yourself a team that can challenge yet again for the Big-10 title. The loss of John Michael Hayden to Houston and Josh Tudela to Los Angeles will sting, but a core defensive unit led by second team All-Big 10 selection Greg Stevning will certainly soften the blow. Look for a Big-10 repeat and a better showing at the NCAA’s – a Final Four finish perhaps?

9) 10-11-9 Maryland [16-5-1]

Like Virginia, the Terrapins are going to have a real hard time filling the shoes of the likes of Maurice Edu (picked #1 in the MLS Superdraft) and goalkeeper Chris Seitz (Real Salt Lake, US U-20 WC Standout). Add that to the graduation of midfielder A.J. Godbolt (who was with the Kansas City Wizards for a whil, could still be) and you’ve got a lot of quality gone. Maryland – over the years – has created a program that attracts quality though and the Terps could come back strong. Though Maurice Edu was the heartbeat, it was the duo of Graham Zusi (11 goals) and Pan-Am participant Jeremy Hall (7 goals) who provided the finishing touch. Shawnee (NJ) product Stephen King (no relation) will be the motor and try and provide Zusi and Hall with their chances, with support from Drew Yates who should see more time this year and incoming freshman Yannick Salmon – a member of the Jamaican U-17 National Team. The defense includes the dependable A.J. Delagarza and Spencer Allen who between them missed one game. Though Seitz was seen as the best Terp goalkeeper ever, it will be a race between three to get 2007’s job done. If the new pieces fit together, the ACC is wide open but don’t expect Maryland to push far in the tourney.

10) 10-10-10 Notre Dame [15-6-2]

A promising 3-0 win over New Mexico in the preseason has the Fightin’ Irish confident of big things this year. None of those goals were scored by last year’s Hermann Trophy winner and Irish international Joseph Lapira (22 goals, 6 assists). If he can perform as well as he did last year and senior Ryan Miller can quarterback a serviceable defense, the Irish will be dangerous. Most of their losses last year were mental letdowns – losing to teams of lesser quality – and that seemed to be remedied early on in the NCAA Tourney. That is…until they met the University of Virginia in the quarters and lost 3-2. They need more weapons to be a significant threat as now-Chicago reserve Nate Norman and powerful defender Greg Dalby have moved into the pro ranks and Lapira can’t do all the offensive work. If Lapira finds support, watch the Irish soar.

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