CCC08: CSD Municipal v. Houston Dynamo – Harder Questions

This is where things get tricky…and not a little confusing. To begin, when searching for Club Social y Deportivo Municipal, the “Social y” bit is vital: if you try “CD Municipal,” you’ll hit a wall damned quick. If you look at the Global corner of ESPN.com, you will find a section for La Liga Nacional de Guatemala. But you’ll also notice they’re calling the current campaign Clausura 2007 and, when you check results by club, you’ll see some blank results in the past – all of which tells me they need to either hire more interns to make sense of this mess, or higher a Guatemalan to run the space. Then again, having just checked Los Rojos official site (the club’s nickname, by the way) going Guatemalan may not be the answer. Sure, my severely limited Spanish handicaps the effort, but the site lists a February 24th win over Heredia as the club’s “ultimo partido,” rather than their most recent loss to Jalapa, which came on March 1…incidentally, the worst team in Guatemala’s La Liga…well, that is if you check Puesto en Liga on Los Rojos’ official site and not ESPN.com. Wait. Crap, their last game was actually a loss to Petapa…jesus, people. Hire more interns.

Look, all I want to do is figure out how these guys are doing and I can’t even confirm that the Clausura 2008…sorry, Clausura 2007 (?) started in November.

Then again, that probably doesn’t matter in the grand scheme. The half of Jeff Carlisle’s preview for ESPN.com devoted to the Houston Dynamo’s CONCACAF Champions Cup (CCC) quarterfinal tie passes on some good dish on the Guatemalan side – specifically, that they have had better periods in front of goal and, by way of curiosity, there are some former Major League Soccer vets on their roster. Guys like old Columbus Crew midfielder Freddy Garcia, to give on example. Turn to the Wikipedia entry on CSD Municipal and you’ll not only learn this is Carlos Ruiz’ former club, but that is Guatemala’s most successful and, apparently, most popular clubs. Not only have they won 25 league titles, plus a buttload of cups, they secured Guatemala’s lone CCC win back in ’74. Club success aside, Municipal still keeps the leading scorer in their history on the books: Juan Carlos Plata, who it seems is tied with Ruiz as all-time scorer with the Guatemalan national team.

Another former Crew player, Mario Rodriguez, rounds up Carlisle’s list of players to watch. That’s not much, but the bigger question is who the Dynamo has available to take on this side. There, the problems begin in the midfield and, potentially, extend back to the middle, where a new Houston player raises cause for concern. Continue reading

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La Liga: Why the Sky Isn’t Falling in Spain

The current feeling in Spain is just as the title states: The Sky is Falling!

Thinking about it today, I must be one of the only people that believes this isn’t the case. On Monday’s The Offside Podcast Ian and I chatted about this exact subject.

My thoughts on the pod were this. There are really two views you can take from this issue. The first is looking at it from the ‘galaticos’ point of view. If you are a madridista you probably are running to your nearest church praying to whatever god you choose. You’ve just bowed out of your fourth straight Champions League title in the round of 16, but 6th straight since winning the title in 2002. You are also out of the Copa del Rey and now only have the league to fight for.

This view is completely Madrid-centric (or Big Club-centric for that matter). Only the big clubs are sitting there, complaining about the terribleness that is happening in Spain. Reuters Soccer Blog ran a story about how the Spanish game is losing its touch as of late, and cites Madrid’s as it’s main source, but more criticizes their style of play for this downfall.

The favoured Spanish style of slow, patient build-up play has passed its sell-by date. Too many players and coaches confuse possession with danger, while opponents who play on the break are criticised as if they were adopting some sort of underhand tactic. Few Primera Liga sides possess the pace, verve and dynamism of sides like Roma, Arsenal and Manchester United.

I guess I can see where that is coming from. Fabio Capello was let go last year after Madrid’s title due to his supposed ‘boring’ style of play, but I have to say that Schuster’s style of play isn’t any more free flowing than his predecessor’s.

Still, the Reuters article doesn’t even talk about the League in general, but focuses the downfall only on what is happening in Europe. Could it be that simply Spanish football is having an off year? It’s more of a focus on Madrid football then anything concrete about Spanish football in general. Madrid’s success does not parallel that of Spanish football as a whole, unfortunately.

Continue reading

CCC08: Harbour View FC v. DC United – The Ever-Deepening Hole

Major League Soccer (MLS) enters the lists for the CONCACAF Champions Cup (CCC) today, beginning the DC United’s quarterfinal tie against Jamaica’s Harbour View FC (HVFC…hmm, sounds like a communist guerrilla outfit, doesn’t it?). With multiple outlets noting HFVC’s present struggles in their domestic league – I mean, Portmore United is running away with the Jamaican National Premier League (JNPL; can I just call it J-Nipple?) – the temptation to look ahead to the tournament’s semifinals may get the better of fans. Let’s just hope DC’s players don’t succumb as well.

Remember, guys, you’re out there to make all of us look good…and we’ll remember if you cock it up.

It’s not just HVFC’s form that pencils “advantage DC” into the game program. The parade of new faces shapes the talking points for DC as opposed to who’s out through injury – which is in sharp contrast to talk out of the Houston Dynamo camp. Ben Olsen’s absence isn’t great news, but that’s about the end of it.  After that, the focus turns to: how the defensive pairing of Gonzalo Peralta and Gonzalo Martinez works together, a duo Jeff Carlisle dubs the “Gonzo defense.”; how, and how well, Marcelo Gallardo will run the game (or if we will even play); who will pair with Emilio Luciano up top, etc.  Nice problems to have, really, heading into the season’s first real competition. Continue reading

MLS Teams Must Bring Balls…

…because you can’t play soccer without them.

This morning, we are all DC United fans.  We are all Houston Dynamo fans.  That is all.

Wait.  No, it isn’t.  Pre-season officially ends today for both clubs – and how.

Previews for both clubs’ CONCACAF Champions Cup quarterfinal tilts are coming.  OK, that is all.

Motagua 0-0 Pachuca: So, Who Wins a Tie?

Neat game – quite possibly because it wasn’t expected. That goes double for the second half. Between a couple Motagua players and the field, the Honduran team played the stronger game. Pachuca still looked the better team, but that’s only in the abstract: by the end of the first half, I would have pegged the Mexicans to steal it; by the end of the game, I’d say they were lucky things ended as if tonight never happened.

Put those big themes together and one has to think Motagua lost tonight’s game. They chased the Mexicans stupid over the first 15 minutes and showed they could play with them throughout the second half; hell, they showed they could outplay Pachuca from the 55th minute on. What was missing? Maybe that little extra bit of quality, the kind of professional cool and precision Pachuca’s players flashed in the first half? Or maybe it was what was there, namely Miguel Calero. For what it’s worth, Calero played his typical game, but he wasn’t outstanding.

As I see it, Motagua lacked a little in quality. Apart from two, three nearly sure-thing shots on goal that Calero, to his credit, scrambled to safety, they either wasted the chances they had or stumbled a step or two after an alert – and ragged – Pachuca defense. Continue reading

Olympic Qualifying, USA vs. Cuba – Gifting a tie; does Sweden teach diving?

Well, I think it’s safe to say the United States played themselves into a tie. Freddy Adu had the only goal within the first 15 minutes of the first half, but Cuba equalized right before the half. Not thinking coherently right now, I find it appropriate to just lay out what thoughts I can muster:

The lineups were (one or two of Cuba’s midfield might be wrong):

UNITED STATES

—————-Altidore—————–

Davies———-Adu————-Findley

———-McCarty——–Edu———-

Freeman—–Ianni—–Sturgis—-K. Hill

—————–Seitz——————–

CUBA

—————Duarte——–Linares————

Villaurrutia—Vasconcuelos–Alvarez—-Urgelles

Pozo———Diaz———–Bermudez——Boro

——————-Miranda———————

First off – about Cuba – if I had to pick three to defect right now, it would be the three I mention extensively – Leonel Duarte, goalscorer Roberto Linares, and goalkeeper Jose Manuel Miranda. Duarte had trouble getting involved attacks going, but really looked good on and off the ball. Linares was fast and powerful, poking in the one ball that Ianni and Sturgis forgot to track. Miranda was Cuba’s man of the match, hands down. The goalkeeper turned away several Freddy Adu screamers, etc.

– Freddy Adu was the only creative force we had on that field. Kamani Hill certainly tried to get things moving from right fullback, but his forward runs were generally predictable and led to an errant pass or touch.

– Freddy looked rather rusty though. He was lost at times and, for at least 30 minutes, no one could find him. He disappeared like Landon Donovan often does and that can’t happen.

– Dax McCarty looked decent organizing the central midfield but he often overdoes the whole “I’m small and scrappy” bit, hurting his play in the process. If he had just calmed down on several occasions, more threatening opportunities could have been created. With that said, it was only McCarty and Adu willing enough to take the long shots from outside. Both, along with Kamani Hill, were the only ones that fought the whole game. McCarty never stops moving – seems he’s picked up a step or two from Juan Carlos Toja.

– After 20 minutes or so, it’s like the squad forgot the tactic. Using the wings became the last thing they wanted to do. Classic example of a team thinking they are automatically better than their opponent. It was clear they were, but they didn’t do what they had to do.

– Why no Sal Zizzo? I understand he’s been on the bench for Hannover 96, but come on – on behind Gaven and Barrett? Between Robbie Findley’s finishing and Charlie Davies’ diving, their inconsistent play on the wings was a big reason nothing was getting accomplished. On three separate occasions, Charlie Davies clearly dove instead of staying on his feet and taking a shot on net. Ives Galarcep sums up Davies nicely after he was subbed for Chad Barrett – “Barrett coming in for Charlie Louganis, I mean Davies.”

– I agree with Piotr Nowak that Altidore was taking himself out of the game and looked tired, but who else was an option? Both Findley and Davies showed no composure and couldn’t make chances for themselves. Chad Barrett was useless (was that just me?). Eddie Gaven needed another 15 minutes to actually get in the game.

– It is safe to say that Ianni and Sturgis in central defense is definitely one of the weaknesses. Our fullbacks – Freeman and Hill, however, worked well at times and were probably – positionally that is – the best overall for the US.

– Chris Seitz didn’t get much to do. Maurice Edu looked like he was almost too good for the game. Between him and McCarty, nothing really ever got going. I might be judging them harshly, but a 1-1 tie to Cuba in front of 50 people speaks for itself.

***Expect an aggressive American side come Thursday. Probably a team more reminiscent of the squad’s first 10 minutes tonight against Cuba. Nowak needs to let them take men on a bit more – like Edu’s quick swivel in the box that set up a shot, McCarty’s change of pace that opened him up for a 20-yarder, and Adu’s fake which he then chipped over the Cuban defense and into the path of Robbie Findley.