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.)

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MLS Week 1 Collective Power Rankings: One for the Circular File

Here’s the word from the Semi-Detached Pundit Collective (SDPC): we have no frankin’ clue what’s going on. Well, that’s not entirely accurate: New England impressed all observers in the survey but one (3rd Degree) and there’s general agreement as to who are the three worst teams in Major League Soccer (MLS) – Toronto FC, the Los Angeles Galaxy, and the San Jose Earthquakes, and in that order.

After that, however, it’s a fuck…ing….train…wreck. Calling views on the MLS’s, um, “middle 10 teams” a mash of opinions constitutes an insult to a mash of opinions. We’re way past that. Between the diversity of methods, the several pundit outfits involved still trying to figure this stuff out, this project comes closer at present to having 11 people with no shared languages among them attempting a re-write of The Bible – and with a flock of angry, holy-roller partisans barking in all 11 scribes’ ears throughout.

Tempting as it is to throw the results into the circular file, let’s just dub the mess itself an accurate reflection of where things are after Week 1 of MLS’s 2008 season. In other words, no one knows what’s going on and there’s nothing wrong with that. It just means I have eleven sets of data for this week’s survey and they all tell me different things. Let me list those before moving on (and, again, if you see rankings out there that don’t appear down here, due point them out to me):

Center Holds It
(me)
Goal.com (Kyle McCarthy)
Orlando Sentinel (Brant Parsons)
Fullback Files (um…Fullback?)
Sideline Views (Luis Bueno)
Soccer By Ives (Ives Galarcep)
WVHooligan (Drew Epperley)
Blue Blooded Journo (a collective)
3rd Degree (Parrish Glover)
“Jason” (left his rankings in CHI comments; always welcome)
Fox Soccer Channel (Keith Costigan)

(UPDATE: Oh, the hat!  ESPN.com finally posted their Week 1 power rankings, so I thought I’d post ’em here, even if I’m not about to re-calculate (Bastards!  Do your homework on time!).  In case you’re not aware, ESPN.com also takes the collective approach to their rankings, so maybe that was the hold-up.  Anyway, a quick look at the numbers suggest that little, if anything, would have changed: maybe KC ties Chivas (you’ll see below), maybe DC and the Rapids flip-flop (again, very much doubt it), and maybe TFC would have wound up worse than LA…but with all of them pretty close, I don’t think the collective rankings would have moved.)

Now, onto the results: each team will be listed by rank and with their average score following the club’s name. To provide some perspective, the most common score(s) assigned to each team by the individual members of the collective will appear in parentheses after that, followed by the previous week’s ranking and average. The ranges we’re looking at for some teams are nothing short of absurd. I’ll close it all out by trying to squeeze some kind of sagacious observations out of the data-cluster-fuck.

Now, to the numbers: Continue reading

MLS Week 1 Power Rankings – HA! (+ do post your own rankings)

I’m torn between two images for this first edition of the Major League Soccer power rankings. This one captures what rankings, oh, #2-14 look like to me:

This one, on the other hand, gets to how making each of those selections felt:

So, yeah, confidence is low, people, so low in fact that I put fairly little stock in what appears below; I blame the whole Week 1/too little information thing.

Rankings and jabbering aimed at justifying them appear after the jump. And, as always, the previous week’s ranking appears in parentheses after the current week’s rankings. This will go into the collective rankings – look for those Thursday – along with several others I have already found. Anyone is welcome to submit power rankings of their own into the comments (or to email them to me; jeffbull71[at]yahoo.com) and those will go into the collective mix as well.

Now….the rankings….accuracy, validity, hell, even intelligence, not guaranteed: Continue reading

10 Bright Spots of MLS Week 1: The Gambians, Cooke, and a Salute to Youth

1. New England Revolution

Introduce two U-20 Gambian players and succeed? Sure. Steve Nicol certainly knows what he’s doing and his opener – without the services of Twellman – truly pays homage to his ability to man manage and bring along young talent. Let’s not forget Adam Cristman who worked well with Nyassi and Mansally. All three – along with the veteran presence of Steve Ralston (let’s hope that shoulder’s okay) and the patrolling of Joseph/Larentowicz in the middle – helped put together an attack that even Houston’s defense couldn’t withstand. On the other end, however, Parkhurst dealt with Ching effectively, while it’s pretty certain that Wondolowski should not be in there.

2. Terry Cooke

When did Terry Cooke get fast? We knew he had a boot, but his speed and tenacity was the difference versus the Galaxy. Could it have been the Englishman just wanted to show up his former teammate Beckham? If that’s the case – the opening goal in a 4-0 drubbing of the Galaxy and two subsequent assists will do just that. We can expect another big service year from Cooke. Someone explain to me how Cooke got awarded that second assist on Colin Clark’s goal??? Clark dribbled for what seemed like an eternity before beating Cronin near post…at what point does Cooke’s initial pass become “unassisted”? 

3. Kenny Mansally/Sainey Nyassi

These kids can play. Nyassi burnt Houston on the wings and was able to finish his first goal ever in his debut. Mansally had his hand in the first goal and looked strong on the ball with an uncharacteristic poise for a first year striker. If Mansally and Cristman do well enough up top, does Taylor Twellman technically become expendable?? (Answer is probably no…). Sainey Nyassi was hyped up a little less than Mansally throughout the preseason, but he arguably was the more effective player. Not even Corey Ashe had an answer for his speed on the wings. Both players if consistent provide the Revs with a depth that could account for the loss of Dorman and Noonan. Let’s wait for week two though…

4. Maykel Galindo

He did it at the expense if FC Dallas’ new acquisition and Mexican international Diulio Davino, but no matter how it happens, the Goats came away with a point. Davino mishandled a trap and Galindo capitalized by pouncing on it and sending it straight through Dario Sala’s legs to equalize with 5 minutes to go. What it made it more impressive was that Galindo is still recovering from sports hernia surgery and isn’t at 100%. The Cuban international then kissed the Chivas USA shield during his end-of-the-game interview. The guy is class.

5. Claudio Lopez

Eddie Johnson who? Lopez and Ivan Trujillo ripped apart a decent D.C. United defense with the help of Carlos Marinelli. Already, this is shaping up to be one interesting year. If I’m not mistaken though, there were some crazy results at the beginning of last year too. Anyways, Lopez is class and looks like he’ll end up being another DP success. In fact, you could almost say that about all the DP debuts.  

6. Dema Kovalenko

The guy got stiffed by RBNY and sent on over to Salt Lake (stiffed in the sense he’s more of a big city guy, Chicago his “adopted home”, etc.), but he made the best of his first appearance. Dema, within two minutes of coming, served a cross that was redirected into the Chicago goal by young Bakary Soumare. In a questionably sloppy game, Kovalenko got the job done. On top of that, Kova was just recently sworn in as an official citizen of the United States of America.

7. Adam Moffat

One hell of a game winning goal for Columbus from the star of the Crew’s preseason. A developmental contract that looks to make a significant contribution to the Crew’s run this season. Reminds me of a younger Kerry Zavagnin. 

8. John DiRaimondo/Nick LaBrocca/Kosuke Kimura

LaBrocca, the NJ native, and DiRaimondo really frustrated the hell out of an almost non-existant Los Angeles midfield. Fernando Clavijo’s injury predicament forced him to go with a lot of new blood. Kimura held his own at right back, keeping Donovan pretty quiet throughout the whole game. From the get go, it was clear who wanted to win the game and all three were a huge part of that.

9. Traveling Toronto FC Fans

TFC had something like 2,000 supporters travel down to Columbus to take over Columbus Crew stadium. The Crew still outplayed them in the end, but Crew Stadium was still Toronto’s for the afternoon. Take those supporters away and you have one pitiful Columbus crowd. Mr. Gillett, you want a team? I got one for you…

10. Jon Busch

The seemingly eternal back-up began his Chicago starting career with a big game. A potent Real Salt Lake offense tested him again and again, forcing him into 8 saves. Busch, who last started regularly in 2004 with the Columbus Crew, looked shaky in the beginning but ultimately showed well and solidified his number one spot. In 2004, Busch was the brightest spot on a decent Columbus team – he posted a 1.07 GAA and a 12-5-12 winning record. Then he was replaced….Here’s to hoping he finds that success again.

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

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

Is MLS the NSA? Discuss…

Boy, do I have questions today. I found another question to pick at in a post on MLS Rumors. It seems an anonymous emailer button-holed New England Revolution Front Office Officers, Craig Tornberg and Brian Biello and managed to squeeze a few morsels of insider dish out of them. As with the post below, I’m less interested in the dish than I was in this statement:

“They have a lot of news they just can’t release because it’s not meant for it being made public.”

So, here’s the question: what happens if this news goes public? And I’m asking because I can’t imagine. Are they thinking floods, financial panic, a nation-wide freakout when we all learn that the Feds are actually locking down extra-terrestrials in Foxboro and will sit on them only provided the Revs never build a soccer-specific stadium?

The failed deal to bring Juan Sebastian Veron to Major League Soccer (MLS) is the most recent exhibit in why things/negotiations/etc. must be kept secret, but….in all honesty, why? This is a business built on a friggin’ game and that’s the case no matter how “beautiful” it may be. How did we get here? Some player deals I get (though, again, not really), but I don’t understand why the Revs don’t want to talk about what they’re trying to do to build the game in the Boston-area. Would news of these efforts be worse than the current silence and impression of near-total indifference? And I mean that even if they failed. I’m of the opinion they look dumber holding off. Then again, I’m a positive whore for transparency.