Crew TSII: Pre-Season Tilt in SLB

Given the low frequency of these posts, it no doubt seems I’ve stopped keeping tabs on the Columbus Crew. If any Crew fans out there feel chagrined, don’t fret: I’ll be posting something on the Rapids with an introduction that reads exactly the same, but with the names changed around.

The hard reality is, there’s not much to report where Columbus are concerned. Back in early February, it seemed a day didn’t go by without something coming out on the Crew. As February creeps toward March, however, there’s little more to talk about than which trialists didn’t stick around (as mentioned in the Crew “section” of the sprawling off-season report I posted earlier, neither Lars Ricken nor Roman Friedli will join the team).

There’s something deeper at work as well. I know the Crew well enough, but without first-hand access, which would allow for sitting in on practices, etc. I’m sorta stuck waiting for the games they play to make it to TV – and that’s not going to happen until the regular season. They will play a pre-season game tonight, this one in San Luis Obispo against the San Jose Earthquakes, but it’ll be learning-by-match report on that one. And that’s never a favorite for me.

At any rate, I think/hope I’ll have more to say about the Crew – what makes them tick, where they’re short on the field, who’s taking up space, etc. – when the regular season hits. And sometime before the season, I’ll go nuts with team previews, weighing strengths and weaknesses, etc. But that’s something for mid-March. For now, all I can do is pass on what I’m reading on Covering the Crew…and a smarter fella would just go there. But until March and the regular season, I will post on the Crew at least once a week. A weekly wrap is better than nothing, after all, and it will help keep me current.

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The Penultimate Off-Season Progress Report: Best…Off-Season…Ever…

The latest report on all off-season player moves among Major League Soccer’s (MLS) clubs appears below…well, at least the ones that interest me. I’ll work with the same categories as last week’s edition, though, with the March 3rd roster reckoning coming down the pike, I’m going to have to start tracking the players who get axed…if only half-heartedly. By that I mean, I’m going to ignore waivers of say, Chris Loftus for New England. But any move that strikes me as “big enough” will get record in this and, to a greater extent, future editions.

All that said, I want to throw one bold thought out there: for my money, this has been the BEST OFF-SEASON in MLS history. More exciting/intriguing player moves, more movement in general, teams coming into the season with enough question marks over their heads that you almost have to watch the games to form a serious opinion of what it all means – or maybe it’s just that we finally have sufficient coverage. There’s a potential downside getting some airing, especially where all “them furriners” are concerned: e.g. with so many exports coming in, what will happen to the development of the American player? Marcelo Balboa treated the subject a couple times through a Q & A with USSoccerplayers.com – and it’s an interesting subject, even if a wait-and-see approach strikes me as the right one.

All I know is I’m in drunken piggy heaven herding all these cats. Wonnerful, wonnerful.

Enough about my joy. All the movement I saw (or cared about) appears after the jump. Contrary to past practice, I’m ditching links to the current rosters; all y’all know where to find ’em if you want ’em. As always, if I missed anything big, feel free to correct the record, by flagging omissions in the comments field or emailing me (jeffbull71[at]yahoo.com). I will make the change and give due credit. Here goes… Continue reading

Houston 3-0 Sydney + a Big, Blog-Link Semifinal Wrap

Was that a first half to savor or who?  Houston was everything the Los Angeles Galaxy was not.  While LA looked collectively confused, even panicked, not only did Houston look sharp and organized collectively, every player on orange looked comfortable and switched on to their roles.  I gave up watching around the 80th minute, but that was mainly down to Houston appearing so clearly in command.   Sydney FC, to their credit, set up a couple scrambles and  forced Houston ‘keep Pat Onstad into a save or two, including at least one tough one.  But the night was Houston’s without question.

In LA’s defense, they’re just in a different place than Houston right now.  Houston had every motivation to start a strong line-up; “real” competition is just around the corner for them and it’s big – the CONCACAF Champions’ Cup.  They have the title of best club team in the region to spur them on and the possibility of December games against the best in the world as a kicker.  More to the point, the Dynamo returned so much of last year’s MLS Cup squad that the players already know one another.  That the players look ready to roll going into a heavy March warms the heart.

LA, on the other hand, can politely be called “in transition.”  Their situation showed in who they fielded – plenty of rookies and trialists.  LA has the luxury of time that Houston doesn’t.  And, even with a manifestly improved second half, the clearly need that time.  It’s hard to say what should cause LA fans more worry in last night’s performance – the confused, even appalling static performance or signs that several players they took with them looked unprepared for prime time.

To wrap it all up, we got a look at the current pecking order in Major League Soccer (MLS).  I can’t say I expected the gap between the two MLS teams to yawn so wide.

Some other random notes on players and happenings: Continue reading

Pre-Season Results: The Cruelest Blow Yet…

…and who else would it fall on the Real Salt Lake (RSL)?

Real Salt Lake 1-2 Lynn University
RSL’s ongoing pre-season victory parade through colleges of which I have never heard and Premier Developmental League teams continued…right up until they hit the brick wall that is Lynn University (see the third “section” here for some details).  Brutal, brutal stuff.  After crediting Lynn for sticking it to ’em, RSL GM Garth Lagerwey expressed hope this result will lead to “two steps forward down the road.”

Yes, some days this thing does write itself…

BONUS
Back, again, to the silly.  I shouldn’t love this as much as I do.  But the formula is so simple: find photographs of high school students caught in one of their worst moments – e.g. presenting projects at the Science Fair – and memorialize it by highlighting out the very worst in those photographs.  Magical.  I will look at this whenever I feel sad.

One Last Plug for the Pan-Pacific

I finally made my way over to MLSnet.com’s official propaganda page for the Pan-Pacific Tournament (kicks off tonight; check ESPN’s listings for times and channel…it’s in there…and all times are, helpfully, GMT). Can’t say I regretted avoiding it until now: even the news/headline section overflows with the usual airy features and quote-filled pap about how seriously all involved will take proceedings. This, for instance, is not a preview, but a series of throw-away quotes held together by a bit of context.

Tragically, the mainstream media isn’t doing much better. I have seen about two dozen variations on this story since Monday; only subtle differences in the completeness of the quotes and changes to word order separate this one from all the rest. But, here and there, one comes across actual news – e.g. the fact all games will be played on turf (to Ruud Gullit’s clear chagrin…he’ll get his back by playing rookies) and allusions to future expansion of the tournament should it prove a hot ticket. And, in defense of the general shortcomings, word that Landon Donovan will miss tonight’s semi first came my way through the official site.

As they sometimes do, blogs led the way on the Pan-Pacific Challenge. For instance, I liked Dan Loney’s pre-tourney musings almost as much as the one I posted yesterday (tee hee hee). But I owe most my current knowledge of how LA looks going in to 100 Percent Soccer, who identified the 27 players the Galaxy flew to Hawaii, as well as posting a situation review from training camp (for the curious, it’s about what one would expect: the attack looks all right, while the defense looks a little green). Can’t say how they’ll stack up against Japan’s Gamba Osaka, but the latter has issues of its own in the form of key players missing through injury and (if memory serves) national-team commitments (sorry to stiff you on links). Will it be a good game? Hope so. Failing that, though, I’ll take funny.

Credit Nutmegged for doing something clever for “the other game” – e.g. the late tilt of the Houston Dynamo v. Sydney FC. Nutmegged’s Martek compared notes with an Australian fella who runs a site called The Football Tragic, each telling the other what to look for from the oppostion. Enjoy The Football Tragic’s take on Sydney here and Nutmegged’s evaluation of their home-team Dynamo here.

As for me, I’ll try to do some jottings on the games between tonight and tomorrow. Expect the usual rambling, if not a little more of it, as I’m trying to get away from anything that resembles a typical match report. This being pre-season – for at least three of the teams – there’s not a lot to read into this anyway.

BONUS Continue reading

Pre-Season Results: I Think Bueno Said It Best

MLSnet.com rounded-up a couple pre-season games from yesterday.  In order of least to greater importance/coverage:

Toronto FC 3-1 U.S. U-17s
Seeing as MLSnet.com’s report is the only place I read about this game, they get the link.  Then again, what’s to get excited about?  Men beating up on teenagers…old news this pre-season.  The line-up has some interesting points, specifically, who isn’t lining up for TFC: Danny Dichio, Jeff Cunningham, Ronnie O’Brien…basically, most the names the  average fan would recognize.  Must be testing trialists and bubble players?

Chivas USA 1-0 DC United
Sure, you can read a bit on this one through the link above, but that doesn’t bear Luis Bueno’s eye-jab of a headline: “Chivas trialists beat DC.”  That’s got to feel swell for DC fans (about as well, I suspect, as tales of freak injuries, recovery and uneven fitness).  Anyway, Bueno’s piece also covers the game, particularly an on-field incident what sounds like a “forward’s tackle” on Jesse Marsch by Luciano Emilio; fortunately for DC fans, no retaliation came…which would have given them more distressing news to digest.  Another write-up on the game came from Nick Green of 100 Percent Soccer, who liked what he saw of Chivas going forward.

For what it’s worth, this last game constitutes one of the more interesting results of the pre-season.

BONUS: What I don’t know about current pop culture can be could fill an oil refinery large enough to solve the United States’ importation of foreign oil.  As such, I didn’t know who Heidi Montag is/was…but, now that I’ve seen and heard her first foray into singing stardom, I’m missing that blessed ignorance horribly.

Pre-Season Results: RBNY Over Some Swedes (One that Got Away)

In a pre-season bout that Soccer America seemingly failed to notice (don’t see it in here), but later flagged, Red Bull New York topped Swedish Club IF Hammarby last Friday by a score of 2-0.   Word on that came tucked at the bottom of a larger, fairly useful Soccer America piece on which players look hot this pre-season…and that’s “hot” as in playing well, as opposed to prancing along all sweaty and desirable.

Turning to the “hot” Red Bulls, one would probably flag Juan Pablo Angel and reported new signing Oscar Echeverry, both of whom scored against Hammarby.

BONUS MATERIAL: All right, tough guy.  Read the tale of woe on the other side of this link and see if you can stop from weeping. It’s not the shortest thing you’ll ever read, so find some place where you have time to read it.  And keep tissues handy.  You’ll need ’em if you’re a normal, feeling human being.  That goes double for people with kids.