DS, 10.18: Cooling PDX Dreams?; LA v. RBNY TONITE (+ Cobi); Solo’s Apology; Odds ‘n’ Ends

– The middle section of Ian Plenderleith’s MLS News Review for USSoccerplayas.com revisits the MLS-to-Portland issue and, to be direct about it, brings out the wet blanket. I’m not criticizing – the man is entitled to his opinion and, odds are, he’s not engorged with soccer-lust for an MLS team in his hometown – but I read what looks like the same article from my local paper and came away with a glass-half-full vibe – though the emphasis belongs on the “half” part. And, in his defense, Plenderleith flagged the biggest trick – e.g. the money invovled in upgrading PGE Park, something that will be particularly hard to sell in terms of public revenues given that the city undertook renovations on the facility not all that long ago.

– As we all know – and I’m not talking about The Ankle – the LA Galaxy continues clawing out of its grave tonight when they take on a Red Bull New York side that should be more interested in going into the playoffs healthy than in keeping LA out. Previews abound, but I liked what I got from Goal.com and Martin Rogers’ preview for Yahoo! Sports as much as any of them; the passage where Rogers calls LA coach Frank Yallop “a good and decent man” particularly caught my eye…though I can’t say why.

Speaking of LA, I came across a weird passage in Andrea Canales piece for USSoccerplayas.com on LA’s (evil-infused) resurrection. Here’s that:

“’All along I’ve said in this league you need a steady team,’ said coach Frank Yallop, who maintained that he never lost faith in his players. Instead, he blamed injuries and a difficult schedule for the team’s struggles”

Only after reading that did it occur to me that LA’s (wicked, Faustian) resurrection actually coincided with said difficult schedule…so, earlier in the year then, it must have been the injuries….or they just sucked…right?

– Speaking of LA, there’s something fishy about Cobi Jones retirement – specifically, the occasional rumors that it’s not going to happen. But then you read something like this on the front “page” of Sports Illustrated’s site:

“The Galaxy are set to honor retiring star Cobi Jones on Thursday night…”

I mean, if they honor him, he has to retire…doesn’t he?

– I’ve read a lot of MLS regular-season end-game analyses lately. Hell, I’ve even written a few (well, loose interpretations of them, anyway). But I think Red Bull Rising turned in one of the best end-game posts so far.

– Speaking of great contributions to the collective mind, it’s hard to top Dan Loney’s reaction to the public apology from U.S. Women’s ‘keeper Hope Solo, which was posted on U.S. Soccer’s site.

– Finally, 3rd Degree posted one of those items for which I’m a real sucker: FC Dallas’ All-Time Top 10 Players. Just seeing Ariel Graziani’s name reminded me why I developed that soft spot for the old Dallas Burn…and he doesn’t even mention Alain Sutter (who, for the record, hardly meets the criteria for that Top 10 list).

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Switzerland 0-1 U.S.: Seen Through Others’ Eyes

Due to the necessity of negotiating for TV time in a one-TV household, I passed on the U.S. v. Switzerland in exchange for tonight’s LA Galaxy v. Red Bull game. Helping with my decision to forgo negotiations on this occasion was a personal belief that this game didn’t mean all that much. One, it was Switzerland, and, two, the need to win in Europe seemed the chief talking point going in, a detail about which I’m not particularly bothered. I mean if we’re obsessed winning in Europe, let’s just schedule friendlies against San Marino or Liechtenstein and let the good vibes come…whoops, let’s scratch that last one and make it Iceland

Given the trade-off, I had to make do with match reports – and, as always, the Web provided.

The relative quality of the game hung around as a major talking point and the very first item I read, an Associated Press feed ESPN picked up (yesterday afternoon), mentioned a lot of booing; such things make me think I didn’t miss all that much. It could be that our men’s team (hereafter, the Yanquis) offended the typically low-key Swiss, but, Soccer Source’s Mr. Baker, who reads German (hmm…part of a fifth column? get a tap on this cat), revealed that the Swiss team inspired much of the disgust.

The Yanqui media, while generally agreeing our team barely deserved the loving tap on their collective butts, found some welcome details to highlight. Jeff Carlisle, writing for ESPN, seemed most impressed with the defense, including the gaffe-plagued Oguchi Onyewu; elsewhere, Goal.com credited Freddy Adu for brightening a dreary, rainy affair. My Soccer Blog’s Mike H offered a vague echo of that, noting that the Yanqui adoption of a “sense of the unexpected” allowed the eventual break-through. Even the occasionally grumpy Ives Galarcep generally praised the effort, singling out Adu and Clint Dempsey on the plus side and Taylor Twellman on the negative. Topping the “happy talk” category, however, was USSoccerplayas.com – though that might have resulted from the decision to post the report from U.S. Soccer Communications…

Seeing as we won, the minus side of the ledger doesn’t show much. I’ve already mentioned Twellman, who few people seem eager to see in Yanqui blue (or white, or red, or exploding, denim stars) again. Fullback Files’ report of bulleted excellence doesn’t so much go negative as it ponders the kind of player the U.S. produces: “thuggish defenders” and “two-way central midfielders,” with the implication being that said production has its limitations. No, I think the sternest report came from American Soccer Daily, who, upon reviewing the evidence, opined that “neither side particularly deserved to win.” And yet, we did.

So, what did all y’all think? As noted above, all I know about this one came from what others’ told me. And, the best thing I read/saw all day was the snapshot of the team “frolicking” in the pool. There’s just this great “summer house in Greece” feel to the image. Thanks for that goes to The Beautiful Game.

Upset Galore: Euro 2008 eff-ups and a big Mexican letdown

Complete Standings

Russia 2, England 1 

England’s Euro 2008 fate is now firmly out of their control. McLaren’s squad need help from other teams now to secure a spot in next summer’s tournament. Russia looked on the up and up with Roman Pavluchenko scoring the goals that Alexandr Kerzakhov wanted to. The La Liga striker called for an upset and they got it, without much of a contest. Rooney scored early, but it was the Russians who set the tone – putting 10 on frame and scoring a double salvo at the 70 minute mark to dent England’s qualification chances. The English FA is still saying they back McLaren but you can bet that if they don’t book a ticket to Austria/Switzerland this summer, he’ll be gone…and Mourinho in???? Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The match wasn’t without its controversy as the penalty call was questionable but shit happens, and although the PK swayed the momentum and equalized the game, England had their fair share of chances. Is this another example of Guus Hiddink’s mastery or are the Russians starting to put together the pieces to consistently compete with the best?

Georgia 2, Scotland 0

If this was last year, I probably wouldn’t call this an upset – but with Scotland’s form as of late, this should have been a Scotland win. The Scots dominated the game – possession, shots, all things statistical-ish but it wasn’t to be. A goal from 17-year old Levan McHedlidze (Scottish-Georgian maybe?) in the 16th minute put the Scots in the hole from the get-go. That was enough to throw them off their game as the three M’s (Miller, McFadden, and Maloney) were effectively dealt with by Georgia’s backline.  A six game win streak allows Italy to move ahead of them as the Italians have one game in tow. All it takes is one let down and this might have been it for the Scots.

Liechtenstein 3, Iceland 0

What?!!? I understand that Iceland is somewhat small and that half of Leichtenstein’s population was at the game, but a 3-0 drubbing at the hands of perennial door-mats? No one expected this – especially with Eidur Gudjohnsen in the mix and the Reading boys – Gunnarsson and Ingimarsson in the heart of the line-up. It was Mario Frick and Thomas Beck who led the team – Frick with the early 27th minute goal and Beck with the blow of a brace in the waning moments. Not that Iceland was in contention anyway…but Liechtenstein has had one of their best showings ever in Euro Qualifying registering two wins (Latvia, Iceland).

Guatemala 3, Mexico 2
International Friendly

Yea, it was a young squad with crap-loads of potential but El Tri overcame an early 5th minute Guatamalan goal to score two and go up before giving way to Marvin Avila and a resounding second half brace. At that point in the game, things were getting out of hand. The head ref had already ejected two players from each team as well as Guatemala’s coach and assistant. Would you be surprised if I said one of those ejected was Carlos Ruiz? I doubt it. For Mexico, gone was one of the goalscorers and upcoming stars Cesar Villaluz and Gonzalo Pineda. It was only Guatemala’s 4th win in 29 attempts against Mexico and along with the recent tie to Nigeria, Hugo Sanchez can’t be too happy about the “depth” of his national team pool so far.