Chicago Up 4 at the Half: Collective, Embarrassed Silence Ensues…

Suddenly, the #4 ranking 3rd Degree put down for New England Revolution looks positively sagacious.  As for the rest of us pundits, well…there’s always next week…when we’ll face the dilemma of what to do with Chicago and New England all over again.  Maybe the 2nd half will clarify things a little.

(NOTE: I’m not watching the game, but took a second to turn it on to see what was happening.  When I saw the 4, it took a triple-check before I accepted it was Chicago in the lead.  I heard Jeff Larentowicz got chucked – and that couldn’t have helped – but 4-0?  At the frankin’ half?  Shee-it.)

Notes from MLS Week 1: An Invitation for Answers

OK, peoples: here’s the deal. While I can watch only so many games, I review the highlights for all of them. Naturally, this provides only three to four mintues worth of information and perspective on a 90-minute event. So, for the games I don’t watch, I’m just going to post a series of impressions and questions the day after and invite anyone so inclined to fill in the blanks. The idea is to make me smarter about what I’m watching every week.

My comments appear below: have at ‘em. MLSnet.com match reports are embedded in the scoreline; yeah, I could read those, but they’re boring; I trust all y’all to give me better dish. Continue reading

2008 MLS Pre-Season Collective Power Rankings: Featuring Collectives Within The Collective

Here comes another first for Center Holds It: Major League Soccer (MLS) Pre-Season Collective Power Rankings. All I do here is take every single posted power ranking of which I’m aware, add up all the numbers for each given team, and then post the average – plus some other data and commentary. The idea is to divine the collective wisdom on MLS’s 14 teams. Does it work? Don’t know. Never thought of it that way…I just find it interesting.

NOTE: If you compile power rankings yourself, or if you see a set of rankings out there that I’m not using in this poll, PLEASE forward word to me (comments or email – jeffbull71[at]yahoo.com – will do). If they get to me before I post the collective rankings on any given Thursday, I can include them. The guiding principle is, the more the merrier, the more the better, the more the smarter. It’s a cornucopia of wisdom we’re wanting.

OTHER NOTE: Last year, a couple readers joined in by posting rankings in the comments to my power rankings post (like this one, posted today) and that is welcome. I imagine, however, there is some kind of upper limit for what I can process without letting this hobby consume my life. I’ll let you know when I get there. For now, though, fire away…next week, that is…fire away for next week’s edition.

One last thing before getting to the rankings and commentary: the list of pundits. As with last year, some rankings come from individual’s (like me and Luis Bueno’s for Sideline Views), while others grow from on-site collectives (ESPN.com’s and Blue Blooded Journo’s); in other words, we’re dealing with collectives within collectives (and our solar system could be an atom contained in the thumbnail of some giant, etc. etc.).

It being early in the year, this is a small sample – only 7 pundits. But I have faith it will grow as the season progresses. Here’s the list for today (with links embedded, so you can check my math): Continue reading

MLS Daily Sweeper, 03.27: Josh Wolff, Punishment, Ugly Distractions

I am slowly killing myself…most slow down…

– One left over piece of business from the U.S. win over Poland, something I forgot to mention in my earlier post: I would take Josh Wolff over Eddie Johnson at forward.  Yeah, he’s older, but I think he is also a better player.  And, no, I am not kidding. J Hutcherson hints at why in his write-up for USSoccerplayers.com.

Soccer y Futbol reports that Deportivo Saprissa avoided a stadium ban for the, um, “monkey shines” their fans got up to when Mexico’s Atlante FC came to visit for the CONCACAF Champions Cup.  There’s stuff in there about how they intend to cope (pleading, mainly, backed by some security measures that seem pretty hard to enforce…so…hope is your strategy?).

– Luis Arroyave’s Red Card blog (finally) gives the latest on the Wilman Conde situation…and it ain’t good, at least not from his teammates’ point of view.  And, for the record, the fans aren’t wild about it either.  He also posted some nifty Q & A’s with plentiful of points of interest for Chicago (and Lost) fans – Part I and Part II.

– Finally, a couple sites posted “bold predictions” – and I say, good for them!  I liked what I read from 3rd Degree, but only got to the first couple on WVHooligan’s post before coming here.  Gotta get the hell offline, man….I’m going crazy….kinda like this guy (not soccer-related and long, but pretty worth the read).

MLS 2008 Eastern Conference Preview: Contenders, Dark Horses, Filler, and C.H.U.D.s

(It looks like I got a little ahead of myself down below…if only by implication. Expect the Western Conference Preview tomorrow and pre-season power rankings Friday. Which is how god intended it.)

Between the super-abundance of variables – some directly inter-related, some not – and the parade of blind-spots steadily unspooling behind me, any attempt on my part to provide a detailed and precise run-down of what will happen to each of Major League Soccer’s (MLS) 14 teams between now and MLS Cup 2008 seems either silly, pompous, or slated for failure – or all the above. Given that, I’ll keep things loose. Rather than exactly predicting who will finish where in the standings, this preview, and the one to follow, stops short of ranking teams in the order they will finish, but instead places them into four broad categories. To make things still more vague, I list more than eight “playoff-capable” teams – and I’ll get to the name for that below – an obvious issue with only eight playoff slots available.

This is intentional…I meant “loose” in the first sentence literally…judge me as you will. But, before charging me with cowardice, consider instead that these are the fruits of parity.

To introduce the categories, each team will be tagged with a label: Contender, Dark Horse, Filler, or C.H.U.D. The first two are pretty obvious – e.g. “Contender” attaches to a team with a clear shot at the title, while “Dark Horse” flags a team with the talent and depth to steal the title, but only provided good form and luck through ‘08. For “Filler” teams, the playoffs are within reach, but the title…well, it ain’t gonna happen. Finally, “C.H.U.D.s” – aka, “Cannabalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers”: these are the teams that will suffer in the confines of MLS’s cellars, only coming out for rare feasts on the flesh of the living.

As for resources, what comes below relies on only a few: WVHooligan’s most current list of off-season player movement and Climbing the Ladder’s best guess at starting elevens for the Eastern and Western Conferences.

Finally, if this seems a little weenie, don’t worry: I’ll make an ass of myself tomorrow when I post pre-season power rankings. Odds are I’ll do the same here in any case. Time to get on with the game…for clarity’s sake, teams are listed from Contender to C.H.U.D. Continue reading

MLS Daily Sweeper, 03.24: Resources, Riots, and Goal-Scoring Mysteries

Again…most go quickly…no photos, etc.

Climbing the Ladder – god bless ‘im – posted something wonderful: expected starting elevens for every team in Major League Soccer (MLS), broken down by conference (Eastern and Western).  I will be using those for my upcoming conference previews (Tuesday? Wednesday? just some time before Saturday)…unlike the, um, previews I’ve been saving for the past two weeks.  Also, go vote in his MLS survey.

MLS Rumors picked up reports of fan/security misbehavior during last week’s CONCACAF Champions Cup quaterfinal between Deportivo Saprissa and Atlante FC.  If you don’t trust MLS Rumors, there’s video in the post as well as a link to an article from Medio Tiempo…unfortunately, I don’t speak Spanish and don’t have time for (the ever-comical) Babelfish, so will just pass it on and let you make of it what you will.  Assuming it’s all accurate, it’d be interesting if Saprissa got slapped with a stadium ban for the semifinal v. Houston.  It will also be interesting if they don’t.  Suppose that makes this win/win, right?

– This one is just a little fun.  Who scored the winner in the Kansas City Wizards’ win over Real Salt Lake?  Was it Jimmy ConradScott Sealy?  Drum-roll, please…by a score of two sources to one, Conrad has it!  The more surprising thing is how anyone confused Sealy and Conrad…

– Finally, fans of the Chicago Fire and Toronto FC: click those links and enjoy your gloom.  Hmm.  Not there yet?  Well, try this, Toronto fans!  And this, Chicago fans!

MLS Daily Sweeper, 3.18.08: Amado Guevara’s, Obsession; Cramped in CONCACAF; + One More

Knowing I not only buried this feature, but essentially chastised myself for ever creating it, it feels like I should acknowledge that – no links, though. That said, my New Year’s resolutions usually die a quiet death somewhere around January 10 and this one was no different. Well, there was my resolution to go bald…that one is going like gangbusters.

Moving on the stories I liked/that mattered today…

– You’ve all heard by now about Honduran midfielder Amado Guevara’s apparent, looming return to Major League Soccer (MLS). (UPDATE: Soccer Insider reported later today that this deal is in “long-shot” mode. Well…dammit, people.) But I haven’t yet read anything as his motivation. He’s not positioning himself for a hop to Europe, not at his age, and it sounds like things were going well enough in Honduras: so, what is it that keeps Amado coming back? And it’s worth remembering that he made some noises about wanting to return last year, so this isn’t exactly spur of the moment. Anyway, it sounds like he’ll head to Toronto, news that has the locals (somewhat over, perhaps even irrationally) excited. Some call it, desire; Amado calls it….obsession.

– Andrew Dixon, of Gol Noir and a contributor to USSoccerplayers.com, wrote a column this morning about feeling uninspired by the opposition in CONCACAF. He figures we’ve outgrown our small pond. On a coincidental, yet somehow related note, MLS Rumors passed on word (well, it actually appears closer to a comment of dubious context and significance, but let’s run with it) on MLS clubs getting into the Copa Libertadores. Doubt this is anywhere near happening, but count my corner of Center Holds It as four-square behind the (non-existent) proposal. Actually, count me a fan of merging CONCACAF and CONMEBOL for World Cup, and all other, qualifying, having the smaller nations do preliminary qualifying, etc. Does this mean we’d miss out on the World Cup – perhaps even more than from time to time? Yup. But the virtually automatic bid we’re now getting through CONCACAF leaves me feel cheap and dirty. We should earn our bid. It should make us stronger on the occasions we do arrive. Continue reading