EPL Daily 3.28: Hislop has a blog? and it’s all drama.

March is closing out and so does a crazy month of soccer, but all that’s really grabbed the headlines is drama. But before we get to the drama, take a look at former FC Dallas keeper Shaka Hislop’s new blog with the Guardian.

Hislop calls the Houston Dynamo the favorites for the upcoming 2008 MLS Season. I love it. He writes well, he analyzes well, and people will read him. He actually barely talks about the Dynamo, but focuses mainly on his former team Dallas and Beckham’s Boys.

Now on the neverending drama:

GILLETT and HICKS: George Gillett is still trying to figure out how to get rid of his Liverpool share without selling it off to his partner Hicks. The American’s rant paints Hicks as a crazy man who is impossible to work with. Could be. Plus, Gillett has already found another outlet in the Saputo Family and the Montreal Impact. Man, would that be awesome. Saint Louis and Montreal for the next two teams?

TIM CAHILL: I feel like this headline pops up once every 6 months and it really is a shame. Cahill is easily one of the best midfielders in the EPL when fit and to see him struggle mightily with injuries not only hurts Everton, Everton supporters, but the general spectatorship. The guy has all the tools to help lead Everton into the Big Four. To prepare for the future, David Moyes has already been forced into lining up replacements like Lyon’s Kim Kallstrom.

MASCHERANO: Javy Masch’s bitching and moaning got him a $200,000 fine of 2 weeks’ wages for his outburst last weekend against Manchester United. On top of that, he’s got to serve an initial one-match ban which could be increased once revisited by the FA. For many, this all seems unwarranted…but it just goes to show they weren’t kidding when they said they’d give out bookings like mad if you continually bitch to the ref.

ROY HODGSON: According to various sources, striker David Healy will not play the rest of the season for Fulham and be released from his contract at the start of the transfer window. He can hit for his country, but has done nothing for his club. Jari Litmanen is in the same boat as he has yet to don the Cottagers jersey. Apparently, Hodgson hit out at the Finnish legend saying, “he has not played one game in a Fulham shirt but he has played two matches for Finland”. I ask again, is Hodgson the right guy for the job in Fulhamerica?

DROGBA: Chelsea’s saving grace and brace scorer in last weekend’s win over Arsenal is yapping quite a bit. He has apparently told teammates he’s headed to Inter in the offseason. Add this to Ronaldinho’s possible move away from Barca and you got yourself a fun-filled summer coming up.

2008 MLS Pre-Season Power Rankings: Science!

I’ll begin by apologizing for the constant need to explain my posts and myself. Sorry.

Welcome to the first, and first-ever, Major League Soccer (MLS) pre-season power rankings I have ever compiled. In the past, too few teams playing meaningful games equaled too many unknowns, so I didn’t see the point. I don’t really now….good times, aside. Oh, how we’ll laugh when we look back. That confessed, I’m going to embrace this form wholeheartedly and dress it in the available trappings of science.

I’ll begin with methods, a problem I never resolved during 2007 (mainly because I caught the issue too late in the game). By judging teams on different criteria at different points in the season, I tarnished the results. I started, if memory serves, by ranking MLS clubs based on form – e.g. a broad-brush impression of which team would beat which on the Saturday ahead. By the end of the season, however, I altered the formula to address something that seemed more important: the teams I believed would make the playoffs took the top 8 spots and I placed the teams I thought would go deeper in the post-season nearer the top, regardless of form. I move that the last organizing principle be branded as stupid and relegated to the Hole of Non- and Never-Existence.

With that in mind, the methods employed in the season ahead will adhere closely and permanently to those that first guided me – that is, I expect the team above to beat the team below 6 games out of 10 at a minimum; a brief explanation of my thinking will follow each team listed and each post will close with a discussion of trends and points of interest – assuming any come to me. With consistent methods in place, sound results, analysis, and conclusions should follow – if only logically…and internal logic at that. And – voilà! – we have science…of a sort.

And, later today, I’m going to up the science a little more by roping in all the pre-season power rankings I have seen so far in order to revive the Collective Power Rankings from last season. But, after the jump, I’ll lay out how I see all 14 MLS teams entering this deeply fascinating 2008 season. It promises to be a wild one, (but, c’mon, we all know deep down it’s going to peter out into a dogfight involving the usual suspects…I mean, how many people are rating Red Bull New York…pssh). Continue reading

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

Having already unloaded all my caveats in yesterday’s Eastern Conference Preview, there’s nothing to do here, but get to it. For your convenience, here are the resources borrowed and applied in creating what comes below: WVHooligan’s most current list of off-season player movement and Climbing the Ladder’s best guess at starting elevens for Major League Soccer’s (MLS) Western Conference sides. The same labels will apply as well: Contender, Dark Horse, Filler, and C.H.U.D. For your convenience, here’s a copy/paste on the meaning of the terms from yesterday:

“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 through a season in the confines of MLS’s cellars, only coming out from time to time to feast on the flesh of the living.”

So, let’s get to it…teams are listed in descending order from Contender to C.H.U.D. Continue reading

MLS Results and Moves: A Soft-Lens Impressions

Having been “underground” when Major League Soccer (MLS) Roster Compliance Day came and went (and, to celebrate, I threw out tons of crap, just like the teams I like!), motivation to soberly analyze all those rosters isn’t coming; besides, fans and fan sites have probably did all this to near-death earlier in the week. Moreover, not knowing much about the players coming in, I’m not really equipped to do a hard-data write-up. As such, a looser approach feels more appropriate – or, as I put it in the title, a soft-lens impression, which I’ll form based on what I recall of each team’s results (I’ll provide links when I have ’em) and the moves each team has made so far. I’ll be using Soccer America’s round-up of off-season moves for this last bit.

And away we go…

Continue reading

Pre-Season Match Reports: Too Many for One Clever Title

I just drank some African liquor…that came in a cellophane bag…so don’t expect much…

Truth to tell, I feel like I’m posting early – e.g. before the weight of the commentary and direct observations provides something for us to think about besides what team beat another and by how many. So…I’ll update what comes below as I see them over the course of tomorrow….which is today…assuming you live on the East Coast.

Here’s how this is going to work. MLSnet.com had their unpaid interns turn in the usual one-stop round-up, which caught the majority of this weekend’s games. So, if you see an item below that bears only a headline, that’s all I’ve got on it…and that means you should stop by the “one-stop” link earlier in this paragraph for all the information available at time of typing. Well, at least where all the sites I visit are concerned. As for the rest, if I have links and commentary therefrom to pass on, I will do so. And, as noted above, I’ll add to those stripped-down score-lines where future postings/commentary allows for it.

Here goes, in the order MLSnet.com’s piece listed the games. The ones they didn’t list will follow. Continue reading

Off-Season Progress Report: Mime’s A-Wastin’

For good or ill, here’s the plan for this and future editions of the Off-Season Progress Report. Every Friday, I’ll list all the player moves, trials, and rumors (with a snowball’s chance in Hell of coming together…and some that don’t) that appeared on my screen over the previous week. This feature will continue until – I believe – March 3, when Major League Soccer’s (MLS) teams must have their rosters down to 28 players, as required by league rules.

One category, the trialists, is a little more complicated than the others. To begin, I’m assuming that anyone drafted between the SuperDraft and supplemental draft – all identified here – is, effectively, on trial. I imagine some draftees have gone home already, but ignore them until the final cut comes along…and I may not acknowledge it then (too much to know, frankly). As for all other trialists, I can only name those whose names I’ve seen and I’m confident I’ll miss a couple players per team….all while blaming your team for failing to get out the good word. Given the gap, however, I welcome any and all additions to the record; drop ‘em in the comments field or send to me an email (jeffbull71[at]yahoo.com).

OK, that’s that. All the movement I saw (or cared about) appears after the jump. Current rosters for all teams are embedded under each team’s name. Continue reading

MLS Off-Season Progress Report…Well, Most of One…

Thought I’d take some time today to update the latest off-season player movement around Major League Soccer (MLS). I’ll cover every MLS team down below, talking about which players the club has signed – as recorded on their respective rosters – but will only cover changes that have happened since my first off-season progress report. That said, 1) I’m away from my usual post and the notes I keep there, which means 2) I’m missing some details on some rumors, players trials, that sort of thing.

Getting back to that first off-season report, when I typed up each team’s list of incoming players, I divided them into players coming in by transfer and those “acquired” via the Super- and Supplemental Drafts. The approach for this update will look a little different. Judging from what I’m seeing on the rosters and a player movement round-up run on Soccer America on February 5, teams have signed some, though nothing like all, of their draftees. To account for that, drafted players whose names appear in their team’s official site roster PLUS any player a given team brought in via transfer will be listed as Signed. I’m assuming players in this category to be part of the team at this point.

The other two categories I’ll use are Trialist/Wish-List and Out. The first category includes players named in various sources as being associated with a given team, whether through an invite to camp or by rumor; in the cases where the names are either obscure or low-profile (no offense), I might just provide a link to the source. And the “Out” category is what it is: players who have left the team since the first off-season progress report.

As implied above, there will be holes in this. I’m operating from memory on a few calls. Further, some teams simply enjoy better coverage – among them, teams like the Kansas City Wizards (thanks to Hillcrest Road) and FC Dallas (thanks to FC Dallas Updates); those blogs cover everything down to their players’ stool samples. Other teams (think Colorado) are just hard to find because the front office in question just seems to hate their teams’ fans. But I’m mentioning my blindspots mainly by way of welcoming corrections in the comments. If I missed something, let me know and I’ll get the new information in the main post as soon as I can. If you don’t want to use the comments, don’t be shy about emailing information to me (jeffbull71[at]yahoo.com).

Good god, that’s a lot of preamble. A final thing or two and I’ll get to the goods. One, each team’s current roster is embedded in their name. Two, of course I’ll comment on where I think each team is…that’s just a given. No grades, though. Not this time.

Here goes (fixed it!): Continue reading

EPL Daily 2.6.08: Friedel inks new deal, FC Dallas trialist, WCQ/International Friendlies

FRIEDEL: Brad Friedel – which many have overlooked – has the most appearances in Blackburn’s long and storied history. It’s just a shame he wasn’t there when Alan Shearer and the Rovers hoisted the EPL trophy in 1994-95. The 36 year old, internationally retired keeper has signed on until 2010 as Blackburn continues to improve year in and year out.

BENJANI: Even with the transfer window all locked up, one deal was finally brought to a conclusion. Manchester City cited concerns for a knee problem that Portsmouth’s leading scorer Benjani had on surgery to correct 18 long months ago. Their nit-picking – if you want to call it that – allowed Citeh to squeeze out an installment payment plan for the in-form striker. Manchester will pay $7.5 million up front with installments totalling another $7.5 million will follow at Benjani’s 25, 50, and 75 start mark.

SAM STOCKLEY: Although not EPL related and not even really that exciting. FC Dallas will be trialing Stockley – a former Colchester and now Wycombe fullback. At the ripe old age of 30, he has been forced out of the Wycombe line-up and is looking at his options. His contract doesn’t run out until late June of 2008.

INTERNATIONALS: Everton’s Tim Cahill scored the second goal in their first ever Asian World Cup qualifying win. A 3-0 blowout of Qatar. Manchester United’s Park Ji-Sung and Fulham’s Seol Ki-Hyeon scored three of South Korea’s 4 goals in a 4-0 drubbing of Turkimenistan. Charlton’s Chinese striker Zheng Zhi scored the equalizer in a 1-1 tie with Iraq to start off their WCQ campaign and kept China from following to a 10-man Iraq side after midfielder Neshat Akram was sent off.

A crap load of international friendlies take place today, featuring all sorts of EPL players – the most notable being: France vs. Spain (17 year old Barca starlet Bojan Krkic was hoping to make his debut but might not due to injury), England vs. Switzerland (England will play its first match under Fabio Capello), USA vs. Mexico, Croatia vs. Netherlands (Holland will be operating with out Ruud Van Nistelrooy, Dirk Kuyt, and Robin Van Persie), Turkey vs. Sweden, Austria vs. Germany, Czech Republic vs. Poland, Italy vs. Portugal, Brazil vs. Ireland (the Irish hope for some luck without a manager on the sideline against the Brazilians, Alexandre Pato will NOT make his debut due to a sprained ankle), Jamaica vs. Costa Rica, and Honduras vs. Paraguay.

Crew TSII: And Then He Kicked ‘Em in the Nuts…

Weird day in Columbus. As of, let’s see, 7:07 a.m. the Columbus Crew had reached an agreement with Scotland’s Celtic FC on a transfer fee for Polish forward Maciej Zurawski. And there was some rejoicing, perhaps a little apprehension about spending so much money on one player, etc.

By 1:06 p.m. a post by the same reporter (the rough-and-ready and, lately, fairly busy Shawn Mithcell) on Covering the Crew found something on Celtic’s website saying that Zurawski is going to Greece, to some club named for a girl to be specific. Maybe Maciej got to talking with Cleetus…

Mitchell promised more information later (in the post, not to me; I don’t know the guy or anything), so we’ll learn more later – perhaps even that “Larissa” (the Greek club in question) was some kind of really bad typo for Columbus.

Getting back to the Columbus Dispatch’s report, there was something else in there I was going to flag, a passage on what a hairy pain-in-the-ass coming to America can be:

“But the negotiations are not strictly among clubs, players and their agents. Each step, to some degree, must be approved by the league office.

For what it’s worth, I think the part in bold is something that needs to change. With teams like the New England Revolution or the Houston Dynamo scrounging for players, it seems a little burdensome and a lot silly, that they have to hit up the league office to sign their 27B-6 on top of negotiating with players and their entourages. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if Major League Soccer (MLS) has lost players to that in the past. And the way it diffuses responsibility to the point where players can’t be 100% who’s saying no to a move – as happened with Taylor Twellman (though he’s pretty sure where the buck stopped) – well, I don’t think that brings much comfort to players either.

I’m not saying that’s what happened here. I have no way of knowing as much, for starters. But, if I were a player looking to join a league and I saw the maze of hoops MLS puts in front of player movement, I’m pretty sure I’d hop to Greece too. I’m just saying. The pisser is, it doesn’t need to be this hard: have a salary cap, shift around draft and allocation picks to help with parity, and let the teams succeed or fail. People generally regard micro-managing as a bad thing for a reason.

Looks like the Crew and their fans may yet get to see how “Meet” George Josten and Ricardo Pierre-Louis work out after all…

UPDATE: Curiouser and curiouser…was Columbus ever the destination?  Sure as heck sounded like it.

CHI Player Interview: FC Dallas’ Ray Burse, Jr.

Ray Burse, Jr. has had one hell of a past year – on and off the field. As primarily a reserve last year, Burse waited patiently for his chance at the first team. Then Shaka Hislop retired,  Dario Sala was injured and Burse found himself in net for FC Dallas’ SuperLiga opener vs. Chivas Guadalajara. After that, it was all first team for the Ohio State Buckeye. Speaking of OSU, Burse pulled double-duty last season – finishing up his degree in American History. Clearly, the split-time never affected his on-field play. With his degree finished, 2008 looks to be a great year for the 23-year old as he looks to cement the starting position at FC Dallas and put himself firmly on the USMNT’s radar. The acquisition of Mexican defender Duilio Davino from Club America will certainly help! CHI got to talk with Burse about all sorts of things, mainly soccer of course. Enjoy…and good luck to Ray with the upcoming season! 


How rough was that butt-whooping Ohio State got in the BCS Championship the other day?

A: It was a rough one to take, however I was more upset when the men’s soccer team was defeated in the finals of the College Cup against Wake Forest. Nevertheless, it was a great run for both teams, neither of which were given any chance of making the finals in their respective sport; a compliment to the success they achieved in making the finals.

What have you been doing this offseason?

A: I started out with a trip to Maui with my girlfriend the week before Christmas to celebrate our one year anniversary. We both had an amazing time on the island soaking up the sun, snorkeling, whale-watching, shopping, and relaxing. From there we went back to her hometown of St. Louis and spent Christmas week with her family. To bring in the New Year, we went to Columbus to visit with college friends that we do not get to see often. On New Year’s day, we drove to my hometown of Louisville, Kentucky to visit with my family and I helped run a soccer camp for one of the local clubs. The turn out was great and there was a lot of interest expressed. I am hoping to turn this into an annual event.

Now that I am finished, it is time for me to focus on getting physically fit in preparation for camp starting in the beginning for February.

Does the city of Dallas still have the same allure as when you first arrived in 2006?

A: Of course! It is a great city with plenty to do, a great soccer community and it has great fans. I look forward to helping bring a championship to the city!

Being from Kentucky, what drew you to Ohio State in the first place?

A: When I went on my official visit to the University, I was drawn to the incredible athletic facilities they possessed, as well as the sheer magnitude of the school (over 50,000 students). Some people might people might be deterred by such a large student population, but I loved it.

As a fellow American History major, what do you find the most interesting event in American history?

A: I think the Civil War and Reconstruction are the most interesting events in American history. The struggle African Americans endured from enslavement to freedom makes this period the most intriguing for me.

What was your youth soccer experience like?

A: I had a great youth soccer experience playing for Javanon Soccer Club in Louisville, Kentucky. Youth soccer in Kentucky lacked the competitiveness that other states had, but we were able to compete on a national level.

You were both a goalkeeper and an All-American striker in high school and throughout the youth levels, what made you decide to focus on being a goalkeeper?

A: I would love to take all the credit for deciding to focus on being a goalkeeper, but the decision was forced upon me by my youth coach, Claudio Maldanado. I was reluctant at first and verbally voiced my opinion to him, but he stuck by his decision. Now, we both sit back and have a laugh about who knew best.


You had a busy past year as your career really started to take off. What would you peg as the most memorable moment of 2007?

A: My best moment of 2007 is my start against the Columbus Crew in Columbus. This is my best moment because I was able to play in front of my girlfriend, her son, my family, friends from college, and college coaches.

What are you most looking forward to in 2008?

A: I am looking forward to winning out the #1 spot and playing every week.

Heading into the 2008 season, what are the goals for FC Dallas this time around?

A: I think every team starts the season out with the same goal; to win the MLS Cup.

Who do credit for really helping you emerge last season as a starter and versatile goalkeeper?

A: There were three influential people for me last season, Jeff Cassar, Shaka Hislop, and Nestor Merlo. Jeff Cassar started off as our goalkeeping coach and pushed me very hard from the beginning of preseason camp. He was constantly on me at every moment to improve my game, something that I missed when he moved on to Salt Lake.
Shaka is a mentor and a good friend. I have tried to emluate him since before he came to FC Dallas. He was extremely successful on and off the field, and I look forward to having a great relationship with him for years to come.
Nestor took over as goalkeeper coach when Jeff left and pushed me very hard. He prepared me every week as though I was the starter, and I think that is why I was successful when called upon.

What are you looking to focus on in 2008 – in terms of your attributes as a goalkeeper? What are your strongest attributes?

A: In 2008 I want to focus on reading the game better, being sharper on my decision making, and distributing the ball better. My strength is my athletic ability.

You played in eight reserve games last year, is there anything – as the reserve division is still in its infancy – that the MLS could do to improve it?

A: Possibly a cash reward for winning the games? But for now, the player has to take it upon himself to use the games a tool for improving his game. That is the mentality I adopted when I played in them, and I think it helped me in the success I had last season with the first team.

Who has got the scariest shot in the MLS?

A: Right now I would go with Kenny Cooper. His shots have a tremendous amount of pace on them. But, I guess that might change if I play against Beckham…I heard he has a good free-kick.

Best goalkeeper in the world right now?

He may not be considered the best in the world, but I enjoy watching Tim Howard. I think my style of play is similar to his.

Any players or teams within the world of soccer that you follow?

A: Again I would have to say Tim Howard since his days as a Metrostar.

Any rituals or superstitions before game time?

A: I shower and shave after pregame meal, and listen to my ipod on the way to the stadium. After that, I just focus on getting mentally prepared for the game.

Would Europe ever be an option? If so, where would be the ideal destination?

A: Yes it would be. Ideally it would be England, however I would not limit myself to that.

Last but not least, what does the future have in store for Ray Burse? Long-term goals?

A: Hopefully I have a long successful future with FC Dallas and we are able to bring a championship to Dallas. My ultimate personal goal is to play for the US National team.

A couple miscellaneous questions for you…

What is on your iPod these days? Pre-game song?

A: My ipod has the new Kanye West and Common. I also listen to Micheal Jackson’s Number 1 hits. My favorite pregame songs are Champion and I Wonder from the new Kanye West album. I find them to be very inspirational.

Best place to eat in Dallas?

A: My favorite place to eat in Dallas is the Brazilian steakhouse Rafain.

Funniest member of FC Dallas?

Denilson is a pretty funny guy, but I miss a lot of his jokes because he speaks too fast for me to understand what he’s saying.


Thanks again Ray for doing this…..good luck with everything.