The Team Alexi Has Built: A Visual Reaction

My first attempt at capturing the spirit of this game was a sketch of me covering my eyes, an appropriate choice because that’s how I watched the the final fifteen minutes of the Los Angeles Galaxy’s season opener. But the image at left, which captures my reaction to the Colorado Rapids’ third goal and the degenerating mess that was LA, poses the question that came to me at the time: what the frank was Alexi Lalas thinking when he built this team? Max Bretos (or was it Christopher Sullivan) said enough when he wondered aloud what good it does LA to have three all-stars in the front line when they don’t have the players behind them to get the ball upfield.

Some other quotes, this time from Bretos, as he watched the game:

“Like lambs to the slaughter….”
(Just before Colin Clark’s goal, which Colorado’s fourth.)

“Like a hot knife through butter.”
(Right after Clark’s goal. And it was that bad.)

Without laboring the point, something I’ll be doing later on the Rapids Offside, I want to kick an idea out there: how is Alexi Lalas still employed? And isn’t it just a little insulting to your understanding of the game that he still is? This is just a guess, but I’m thinking if you ran the roster and some video past, oh, 85% of soccer fans they’d immediately question both the roster and the assumptions behind it. I mean, there’s taking risks (driving fast) and there’s being just plain stupid (driving fast and stumbling drunk…toward a brickwall…probably one with that big picture of Beckham in underwear).

The painful thing is, the weakness is exactly where everyone expected it – even if I’m pretty confident no one anticipated the degree of the problems. It’s important to put this in perspective: LA just had their defense mauled by the Colorado Rapids. Yes, one of the worst offensive teams from just one year ago…and one missing a bunch of starters to boot. Michael Gavin is, quite possibly, the worst left-back in MLS; Abel Xavier is starting to show his age (did you see what Colin Clark did to him? Sheesh.): but, generally, they’re disorganized, unsure of their roles, they may not be collectively competent for all I know…just a friggin’ mess.

LA: If It’s Conventional Wisdom Is It Still a Rumor?

Sorry about the slow day…y’know, life.  MLS Rumors posted an interesting tid-bit over this weekend:

“Now we hear that sparks have been flying and fires stoked during the Galaxy’s Asia tour and World Soccer Daily is reporting that the rumor in LA is that Lalas will be gone by July. Gullit’s no non-sense approach to squad selection has rubbed Lalas the wrong way.”

I’m not so much interested in the truth of this one – though it would shock me about as much as the sunrise – as I’m wondering where rumors end and conventional wisdom begins.  The real question is how this hasn’t happened already.

MLS: Coaches, GMs and Wet-Dream Thinking

With the recent rash of firings/resignations of Major League Soccer (MLS) coaches – not to mention the barely moral decision to keep around one coach well past his use-by date (though there is hope yet) – chatter about replacements, as well as the talents and qualities that will make said replacements worth the dinero, dominated the soccer-sphere for a second day. In fact,’s front page looks a little like a special edition given the consistency of the stories (not going to bother linking; the links will change).

A kind of mental quirks typically surfaces in these discussions and this latest round is no different; it could, in fact, be a little worse given how loosely the concept of “ambition” gets thrown around by guys like Alexi Lalas, who has announced his intention to accept nothing less than “sexy” in a new coach for the LA Galaxy (brain…hurting….). But this idea appears just about everywhere, including in a Clemente Lisi column about what he’d term Bruce Arena’s inevitable struggles with Red Bull New York (for the record, I like Lisi’s work on the general subject):

“Now comes the tough task of signing a new coach. With the club’s deep pockets, I would not be surprised if the search is centered on a European coach with plenty of experience. The coach of Red Bull Salzburg, NY’s sister team, is former Italy coach Giovanni Trapattoni. Other names that could be in the mix are Jürgen Klinsmann and Jose Mourinho, if the LA Galaxy doesn’t get there first. All these men are currently out of work and all of them would make for a great addition to MLS.

Those names – albeit minus Trapattoni and plus Fabio Capello – appear in Billy Witz’ LA Daily News column Lalas’ search. As much as seeing any of those coaches in MLS would be, um, kinda neat, I’m far from convinced they would make “great additions to MLS” outside the marketing department. In a non-response response, (meaning that)’s Pat Walsh (could very well have written his piece before or after Witz and Lisi) points to the holes in this, well, wet-dream kind of thinking: Continue reading

Yallop Ditches Star-Struck Team

I don’t often “go to press” – e.g. post on the fly – just because I see a big thing ambling down the pike (though, yes, I’m a on-his-back whore for rumors). But with ESPN reporting with faith in “multiple sources” that Frank Yallop will step down as head coach of Los Angeles Galaxy, there’s just too much juice in play. Then again, it’s not often that I’m trolling soccer sites at 10 p.m. PST on a Sunday.

The first question, of course, is why? I remember reading pieces as recently as last week talking up Yallop’s plans for next season. This raises great following questions such as, what did San Jose offer (whoops; that’s where Yallop looks like he’s headed; sorry, didn’t mention that)? More significantly, from where I sit at least, why the brave face? Why does Yallop pretend he’s going to stay around? Better still, was he planning on staying around until the very next offer came his way – which only gets back to the question of what San Jose offered.

All those questions aside – e.g. best still – does this mean Los Angeles Galaxy General Manager Alexi Lalas will be on board for another season? If so, that would be enough to make me leave if I were Yallop.

At this point – e.g. looking at a rumor that looks solid; ESPN doesn’t usually run something unless it’s pretty safe – two thoughts sit squarely in front of my brain. First, I can’t wait to see the “whys” of this one sort out. Second, assuming this is true – because, yes, this could explode in my over-eager face by tomorrow morning – I can’t wait to see LA play San Jose next season. Those are going to be rip-shit affairs.

Good night. And good luck, Frank. You got a raw deal in LA.

Today’s Best: (Mexican) Chivas Shake-Up (+ Lalas on Lalas Action)

Tucked toward the bottom of a well-reasoned take on the Ricardo Clark situation, Ian Plenderleith passed on some news I might have known had I read The DCenters a little more closely over the past couple weeks (you guys caught this, right?):

“Speaking of difficult challenges for US teams in Central America, tonight DC United faces a second leg road game in the Copa Sudamericana at Chivas de Guadalajara in Mexico, defending the 2-1 lead they eked out at RFK last week.  Chivas not only sacked its coach after the defeat, prompting a 3-1 weekend victory over Velacruz in MFL play, but they also announced free entry to tonight’s game, ensuring a large and lively crowd.

Dang.  Mexican clubs love that free entry concept…we should work that States-side a little more often.  Should be a good game tonight.  Those wanting further reading should check out DCenters’ preview post.

(In other, super-secret bonus news (maybe I should just go back to the Daily Sweeper feature), Greg Lalas informed his brother, Alexi, through the national media that he wants his team, the LA Galaxy, to fail.  And the Lalas not affilliated with a major sporting operation…crap…the Lalas who is not a club president has it largely correct.  I’m looking to Houston to forfend the madness.)

MLS Coaches’ Listings (e.g. Endangered, Threatened, etc.)

With it looking a whole lot like no current head coach in Major League Soccer (MLS) will lose their job by the end of the year, now seems a good time to look at who might suffer the fatal blow after the(ir respective team’s) season ends. Coming after the season, this is less a “hot seat” phenomenon than a coup de grace for a career that sloughed its mortal coil at some point in the season. The transitional nature of the off-season, when re-tooling represents a norm of sorts, might even expand the pool of candidates for the sack. For what it’s worth, I think it should; if I worked a front office, I’d certainly mull over a new direction – especially if an early exit from, or missing the playoffs altogether, afforded a little more time for such considerations.

Before getting into potential candidates for “spending more time with their families,” I’ll start by listing the coaches whose tenures seem safe: Tom Soehn (DC United); Dominic Kinnear (Houston Dynamo); Preki (Chivas USA); Juan Carlos Osorio (Chicago Fire); Bruce Arena (Red Bull New York); Jason Kreis (Real Salt Lake). Yeah, I know: Jason Kreis? I’m fairly confident he’ll get more time – e.g. one year at least to build his team – before being judged against his record. As for the rest, call those 100%, dead certain. (DISCLAIMER: barring changes in health (e.g. heart attack), lifestyle (e.g. becoming trans-gender), social sanity (e.g. saying in a public space “’Minority A’ makes me uncomfortable.”)

By now, you may picked up on some curious omissions from the above. As I see it, the realm of possibility should be pretty roomy (though, clearly, not roomy enough to include Kreis). Put another way, five games to go (give or take) means changes in circumstance remain relevant.

With that in mind, I have listed the remaining MLS coaches below flagging each as either “watch-list,” “threatened,” or “endangered” (can’t imagine the inspiration for that one). In the comments, I’ll get to details like how a given coach can move from the watch-list to threatened status and why I think this coach or that is endangered. And, so, going from the least at-risk population to the most: Continue reading

Daily Sweeper, 09.04: Ticking Clocks; Lotsa Open Cup (+ Blasphemy); Yallop’s Lifeline(?); St. Louis Update…Gasp!

– I’ll lead with a doozy of a concept. A Houston Chronicle article on the local team’s recent staggers pointed out that said local team has only SIX regular season games remaining. Nah, I said. Then I checked the standings. Holy crap. The same applies to Kansas City. It’s crunch-time, people. Good stuff.

– The semifinals for the Lamar Hunt Head-On/Activ-On U.S. Open Cup (LHH-OA-OUSOC) go down tonight – but all y’all knew that, of course, and planned accordingly. I know what I’m doing tonight (unless the wife says otherwise…yes, dear) and will duly prime myself with previews from both games:

FC Dallas v. Seattle Sounders
US Open Cup unofficial site
Nice bit from FC Dallas Updates – especially the crack about Seattle humidity

New England Revolution v. Carolina RailHawks
US Open Cup unofficial site

By time of posting, the New England/Carolina game should be close to underway – so I’ll be missing that one – but the Seattle/Dallas Super-Epic-o will air online tonight. Huzzah! I would live blog the game, but…well, I’m not sure how it’s done – on a practical level, I mean. That’s to say, I have an approach in mind – e.g. watch the game and write comments, posting them as they come to me – but that seems like such a pain in the ass. Is that how people do live-blogging when they do it?

Anyway, I’ll probably do my usual thing, wife and kids allowing – e.g. “Brain-Dead Blogging,” where I write down a bunch of crap in a whiskey-juiced haze and foist it on all y’all later. Continue reading

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 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.

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

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