R O’B to SJ + If I Were Kelly Gray….

A big ol’ Slap o’ Life is coming down the pike and that will keep me away from the site from the end of the day Friday until….well, let’s just say it depends on how many swings Life takes until it thinks I’ve had enough. The upshot of that isn’t major – god knows outlets for snark, soccer, or both aren’t in short supply on the Web – but this does mean I won’t get to my final Off-Season Progress Report until sometime next week. And that’s just as well, in some ways, because all the players, furniture, etc. get nailed down by next Monday (for the most part), which will give us something concrete to talk about.

In the meantime, however, any player movements that make their way over the transom will get due coverage – provided, at least, I know anything about the players involved. Put another way, you’ll have to look elsewhere for the meaning of Franco Carracio’s arrival in Houston or Kenny Deuchar’s house-call (oh, the doctor puns!) to Real Salt Lake.

What I can kick around is the apparent trade that sent Ronnie O’Brien from Toronto FC to the San Jose Earthquakes. Or, as I like to think of it, wow, Toronto just traded away their offense. An exaggeration perhaps? Mm…maybe. Or, as the Toronto Star’s write-up suggests, maybe not: Continue reading

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Gamba 1-0 LA: A Better Feeling

Which is to say, it feels nice to feel something other than shame…

A much-improved second half by the Los Angeles Galaxy, though I always wonder how much of that has to do with one team as much as the other – e.g. did Gamba Osaka lay back a little bit? I can’t answer that, but what I can say is the LA’s defensive set featuring – and it’s worth emphasizing these are rookies – Sean Franklin and, um, Valentin (Julian, I think) looked several orders of magnitude better that the Greg Vanney-led set LA played in the first half.

On the attack – hey, hey – LA had a chance or two. If ____ MacDonald (OK, I checked; it’s Brandon) could shoot for shit, we might have watched a tie and a penalty shoot-out. Hell, even Edson Buddle had a late crack at salvaging some pride for Major League Soccer (MLS), but it wasn’t to be. And, perhaps, that was just.

I won’t bore you with much – this is pre-season after all – but I thought I’d close out with a series of unconnected, yet still related, thoughts. Continue reading

Where Seattle Meets Barcelona

Everyone is flagging the Seattle MLS announcement, so, seeing as you’ve all seen/heard this before, I thought I’d play up the aspect that most appeals to me: the fan ownership thing, in which fans buy shares of the club. Drew Carey handled the announcement and, assuming he’s playing it straight (and we wouldn’t he?), fans who own a chunk of the club get to vote fer or agin’ the team president. That’s kinda neat, as I see it. More significantly, that kind of talk flies like one of those birds that migrates super-fucking-far on annual basis – e.g. very, very well indeed – in the Pacific Northwest. We pitch “progressive tents” at every opportunity in this neck of the woods.

Anyway, you can find a video clip of the announcement on GOALSeattle.com.

One last thing: somewhere during Drew Carey’s entrance, someone in the background blurts out “Say Portland sucks,” which kind of makes me titter given my comment on what I view as an entirely shared progressive culture in both cities. Having lived in both cities for 5+ years, I don’t see a whole lot separating them generally, which may explain the bitterness of the rivalry (certainly much more so than the half-silly, yet frequent references to a “rivalry that goes back to NASL days.” Yeah, it did…but with a 20-freakin’-year hiatus; just admit the hate is natural and stop trying to dress it up). At any rate, the Timbers Blog responds in kind…at least with the graphic that tops his post.

I can’t pretend I’m part of that scrum, of course. Hell, I may be living in Seattle in a couple months for reasons that none of you (should) care about (no, it’s not because an MLS team set down roots there; 1) I’m still holding out hope for a Portland team; 2) do you seriously think a married father of two can make his wife move for that?). In any case, I pack my weird brand of soccer whorishness wherever I go.

Whoops. One last, last thing: is it true, as reported by MLS Rumors, that Seattle’s MLS team won’t be the Sounders? Was this mentioned at the announcement? If so, how do Seattle fans feel about this one?

DS, 10.29: Big, Brimming Bowl of Post-Season Links/Chatter

Seriously, what else is there to talk about? The ever-shady FIFA’s decision to end the rotation system – or, as they call it in Geneva, après Brasil, Le Free-for-All? How ‘bout the Portland Timbers beating up on Toronto FC on Sunday night? Nah…it’s gotta be the playoffs.

– A good number of people seem to be lining up for kicks at the set-up after the first leg of the MLS post-season – and, for the record, I find it kind of relieving to know I wasn’t the only one to almost fall asleep (screw it; I actually did) at one point. Some of my favorites:

“It’s just odd that we spend six months and 195 games building up towards this — a long Saturday night of anti-soccer ruled by the tactics of fear and caution.”
– Ian Plenderleith, USSoccerplayas.com (LINK)


“We entered the playoffs without a single team carrying anything resembling momentum. It was more like eight runners stumbling towards the finish line and struggling to push through the tape. Combine that with the dour playoff psychology of ‘not losing’ and you get 3 goals in the opening round of matches. Ugh!”
– Um…Mr. Fullback, The Fullback Files (LINK)

Good plugs to be sure, but few crystallized the blue-balls mood of the weekend so well as The Beautiful Game. Open this link and enjoy.

The uninspired opening weekend has a couple people talking about changing the post-season formula (again); for instance, Soccer by Ives suggests a return to best-of-three series. For the record, WVHooligan’s drew epperly doesn’t think that would matter all that much. Here’s my two cents – and it’s informed by a lot of the same bitter-tasting shots of reality cited by mr. epperly: if everything must stay the same, make the playoff single-elimination from start to finish with the higher-seeded team hosting. Nice, neat, and simple as you please…next! Continue reading

DS, 10.18: Cooling PDX Dreams?; LA v. RBNY TONITE (+ Cobi); Solo’s Apology; Odds ‘n’ Ends

– The middle section of Ian Plenderleith’s MLS News Review for USSoccerplayas.com revisits the MLS-to-Portland issue and, to be direct about it, brings out the wet blanket. I’m not criticizing – the man is entitled to his opinion and, odds are, he’s not engorged with soccer-lust for an MLS team in his hometown – but I read what looks like the same article from my local paper and came away with a glass-half-full vibe – though the emphasis belongs on the “half” part. And, in his defense, Plenderleith flagged the biggest trick – e.g. the money invovled in upgrading PGE Park, something that will be particularly hard to sell in terms of public revenues given that the city undertook renovations on the facility not all that long ago.

– As we all know – and I’m not talking about The Ankle – the LA Galaxy continues clawing out of its grave tonight when they take on a Red Bull New York side that should be more interested in going into the playoffs healthy than in keeping LA out. Previews abound, but I liked what I got from Goal.com and Martin Rogers’ preview for Yahoo! Sports as much as any of them; the passage where Rogers calls LA coach Frank Yallop “a good and decent man” particularly caught my eye…though I can’t say why.

Speaking of LA, I came across a weird passage in Andrea Canales piece for USSoccerplayas.com on LA’s (evil-infused) resurrection. Here’s that:

“’All along I’ve said in this league you need a steady team,’ said coach Frank Yallop, who maintained that he never lost faith in his players. Instead, he blamed injuries and a difficult schedule for the team’s struggles”

Only after reading that did it occur to me that LA’s (wicked, Faustian) resurrection actually coincided with said difficult schedule…so, earlier in the year then, it must have been the injuries….or they just sucked…right?

– Speaking of LA, there’s something fishy about Cobi Jones retirement – specifically, the occasional rumors that it’s not going to happen. But then you read something like this on the front “page” of Sports Illustrated’s site:

“The Galaxy are set to honor retiring star Cobi Jones on Thursday night…”

I mean, if they honor him, he has to retire…doesn’t he?

– I’ve read a lot of MLS regular-season end-game analyses lately. Hell, I’ve even written a few (well, loose interpretations of them, anyway). But I think Red Bull Rising turned in one of the best end-game posts so far.

– Speaking of great contributions to the collective mind, it’s hard to top Dan Loney’s reaction to the public apology from U.S. Women’s ‘keeper Hope Solo, which was posted on U.S. Soccer’s site.

– Finally, 3rd Degree posted one of those items for which I’m a real sucker: FC Dallas’ All-Time Top 10 Players. Just seeing Ariel Graziani’s name reminded me why I developed that soft spot for the old Dallas Burn…and he doesn’t even mention Alain Sutter (who, for the record, hardly meets the criteria for that Top 10 list).

MLS Expansion: Double-Down on PAC NW & Beyond

My local paper reports this morning that Major League Soccer’s (MLS) top officials are again eyeing the Rose City’s potential as an expansion market. While nothing definitive appears in the article- for instance, no talk of negotiations, advanced or otherwise – it’s easy to disregard this as a simple means of keeping the lines of communication open. Indeed, the official line on the visit boils down to providing MLS Commish Don Garber with a chance “to see [PGE Park] in ‘game condition’ for a significant event.”

Reality aside, however, just seeing the reefer to the headline on the top of The Oregonian’s sports section set some wheels to spinning in my head – and those along somewhat urgent lines. Between Merritt Paulson’s (perhaps throw-away) figure on what it would cost to get the Portland Timbers’ PGE Park up to MLS standards and with a Seattle team to MLS looking powerfully firm for a rumor, it occurs to me that the future is now for Portland getting an MLS team.

Let’s separate this to make it prominent: Portland should get a Major League Soccer franchise in the same round of expansion that takes in Seattle, which looks to be 2009.

Clear self-interest aside (self-interest? where!?), a couple things recommend getting the Pacific Northwest “toe” in the national footprint in place all at once. To begin, if Seattle plays in one league and Portland in another, the risk of the rivalry between them losing its bite grows with each year – e.g. Seattle gets fixated on, say, San Jose, while Portland starts worrying about Vancouver’s Whitecaps. Pull both teams into the league at once and – Whammo! – enjoy the eye-gouging basement brawl between two expansion teams already entangled in regional rivalry. Second, the simultaneous move not only folds the Pacific Northwest region into league with a bang, it essentially wraps up the Western coast footprint. After Portland, Seattle and San Jose, where else does MLS go in a 18, or even 20, team league?

The last piece provides a nice segue into the larger question of expansion: where does MLS go to get its 18 teams by 2012? Continue reading

Daily Sweeper (DS), 10.10: US Roster Talk; MLS to PDX (Still?); SEVERE TV Issues; Best Dang DP

I’m going with an acronym for this feature: DS. That way I have more room for witticisms in the title…

– My colleague Breton already tackled the heavy lifting and thinking regarding the just-named U.S. roster for next Wednesday’s friendly against Switzerland. Read his stuff, of course – he thought about it more, after all – but I stand by the comments I made to close his post, particularly that these out-o’-the-ass lineups make these friendlies worth watching; real shockers like Robbie Findley and Maurice Edu only add intrigue…

…and then along comes USSoccerplayer.com’s Ian Plenderleith to take a big ol’ poop on my fun by pointing out that a few of these players owe a debt to circumstance for their call-ups (thanks a lot, friend). Looking elsewhere, Goal.com’s Ben Brackett seems wary of fielding such a green lineup given his opinion that the U.S. Men need to start winning on European soil. Eh, maybe. I’m not to worried about that, nor am I much concerned about building team chemistry for World Cup qualifying. Sure, we’ll have to get to latter one of these days, but with qualifying not starting till some time later than early 2008, I figure we have time to experiment. As for the European soil thing, it’ll come.

– It looks like the possibility of Major League Soccer (MLS) coming to Portland remains live. Better still, some relevant parties seems interested in placing the team in PGE Park and moving the Portland Beavers (baseball) to another facility. This would be a good thing. No, a great thing. The only piece to the conversation I think they’re missing is what happens with Portland State University’s football team? Then again, since they’re not mentioning it, maybe it’s not the issue I think it is. Anyway, great to hear that Portland’s still in the hunt. Continue reading